From Hated to Celebrated: Can Food and Beverage Companies Improve Our View of Sugar?

Food and Beverage

food and beverage companies
Sugar sweeteners can enable food and beverage companies to significantly reduce the amounts of sugar they use, but companies should be careful to not compromise other characteristics of their items.
Image source: Flickr user Health Gauge

For some time now, sugar has been considered the “bad boy” of the American diet, more related to poison than to any life-sustaining food ingredient.1 Importantly, what some scientists refer to as “poison” specifically refers to added sugar and not the naturally occurring sugar that is present in fruit and milk. Regardless, eating too much sugar has been linked to a variety of issues such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.2

But with sugar as the basis of what makes many foods taste so good, can we reasonably cut out sugar or stick to what many consider to be Spartan daily recommendations as provided by the American Heart Association? Food and beverage companies can play an important role in finding alternatives to sugar that can both increase the nutritional value of processed foods and soft drinks, while decreasing the negative assessments of these items.

Every food and beverage sold in stores begins with a formula, and if food and beverage companies would like to lower or eliminate the use of sugar, new formulas require very careful ingredient sourcing, recipe development and the production of food prototypes. Along the way, food and beverage companies must consider how replacing sugar with an alternative like zero-calorie sweeteners could change the taste, texture and nutritional profiles of the food item.3 To balance the competing priorities of cost, taste and nutrition, there must be a careful integration of all the abovementioned factors, ideally with paperless, automated workflows in order to more effectively track the development of healthier food and beverage items.

Find Sugar Alternatives While Maintaining Product Taste

There are a number of zero calorie sweeteners that already exist on the market; however, existing sweeteners have been associated with a host of other problems including the sensitization of sugar receptors and an alteration in our ability to estimate caloric intake (which, ironically, can lead to obesity).4 But not all sugar substitutes were created equal and when food and beverage companies consider which should be included in a particular formulation, it proves essential that a systematic mechanism for accessing the usefulness of a new prototype or formulation is in place based on previous experiments and food prototypes (i.e. when a certain sweetener was used as a substitute in the past, how did the taste, texture and nutritional value of the food and beverage item change? How might that information influence the sweetener being tested today or how does the information improve the type of formulation development that occurs?).

With the appropriate technology, past experimental information becomes easily searchable and can be shared across food and beverage lab sites to reduce duplicate testing as well as process bottlenecks. The ultimate benefit of this improved productivity would be to more quickly and productively move new formulations with sugar substitutes from the lab into the testing phase and then into the market.

Beyond identifying the best sugar alternatives that maintain the taste and texture of a product, specialized software used by food and beverage companies can also significantly reduce the costs of producing these new formulations. By using a paperless format, new ingredients and materials can be easily sourced for formulation testing and determining the extent to which cheaper ingredients can replace more expensive materials. Being able to instantly collaborate with colleagues also provides immediate access to experiments that might be conducted off-site, but this access enables everyone to provide their insights into the process based on experience or research literature, that can be stored in a single database with the appropriate software.

As food and beverage items acquire their final formulations with the appropriate taste, texture and nutritional profile, software like BIOVIA Formulation Development Solution for CPG also provides Intellectual Property protection through digital signatures and workflow alerts to ensure the hard work expended on developing new food and beverage items is not wasted. Altogether, digital software provides food and beverage scientists with a unified solution that can take them from the initial stages of a project all the way to the end product, while ensuring that all ingredients and formulations meet required safety and compliance rules. To determine how the BIOVIA Formulation Development Solution for CPG can support the development of novel food and beverage products for your company, please contact us today.

  1. “Is Sugar Really That Bad for You?” November 1, 2012, http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20637702,00.html
  2. “Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease,” December 01, 2015, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-too-much-added-sugar-increases-the-risk-of-dying-with-heart-disease-201402067021
  3. “Flexible ingredient sourcing with Cargill can help contain costs,” http://www.cargillfoods.com/na/en/product-development/cost-management/flexible-ingredient-sourcing/index.jsp
  4. “Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost?” December 8, 2015, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030

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