In the last 18-24 months we have seen a growing ground swell of interest in, and demand for so called ‘sugar free’ products. The UK government’s decision to tax certain sugary drinks has further heightened the belief that some sugar is bad and other sugar is not.
Reality is simpler, the ‘everything in moderation’ wisdom of your grandmother still applies, to sugar as to fat and everything else. A diet devoid totally of any one of these things, or any other major food group will be lacking in something your body needs. We were never meant to have the large amounts of processed foods, and in this instance sugary treats which we had come to enjoy regularly.
Let’s be clear a cake made with coconut sugar, agave, maple syrup or honey still contains sugar, and calories and if you eat the whole of it will still have noticeable effects on your waistline. So you are best to acknowledge that sugary treats, are just exactly that and should only be eaten occasionally. My own opinion is that if I am only eating these things as a treat then I want them to be totally delicious, made with the best quality ingredients, without any unnecessary additives or preservatives and that every mouthful will taste perfect so I have no regrets about eating it.
As many of us cut our sugar consumption, one of the side effects is that even things which are naturally sweet like some fruit or juices and smoothies for instance will taste sweeter than they may have done before. It is therefore prudent for food producers from hot drinks to cakes, to breakfast cereals, snack bars and even jams to reassess the levels of added sugars, the ratios of fruit to vegetables in their juices and smoothies, the amount of icing on their cupcakes, the sugar to fruit ratio in their jam and whether or not their instant hot drink needs sugar as an ingredient or whether that could be added to drinks by the end user, in much the same way as salt is now.
My preference is also for natural sugars so I would use unrefined cane and beet sugar, coconut sugar if I wanted that flavour, agave which has an intense sweetness so needs less to sweeten dishes and has a lower glycaemic index than other sugars so does not cause the peaks and troughs in your blood sugar that can cause hunger cravings. I also use quality Canadian maple syrup and dates, bananas and vanilla extract to give food a sweet flavour and would combine all of these with other less refined ingredients so they take longer to enter your blood stream . I personally don’t like the aftertaste from Stevia, so it is not something I recommend using in products we are helping bring to market.
Looking ahead our trusted sources indicate that the ‘healthier, cleaner’ food trends are here to stay for several more years and will redefine what we accept as the norm in sweetness, saltiness etc. If you are developing new products we would certainly be looking for clean foods and considering carefully the amount of refined sugar and fat you add to them and how you can counterbalance that with other ingredients.
If you are wondering what the demand for sugar free or reduced sugar products should mean for your business, then I would be happy to discuss it with you and look at solutions that suit your brand and customer base.
Food industry expert Jane Milton has been in the business for more than 30 years and has the inside track on all things food!
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