NESTLÉ has found a way to make sugar crystals with a different structure which tastes just as sweet as regular sugar but contains less sugar overall.
The all-natural product could allow the sugar content of some of its confectionery to be reduced by up to 40% without the tongue perceiving any difference in the taste. As the health problems related to high levels of sugar in the diet become apparent, many companies are seeking to reduce the sugar content of their products, both for reasons of consumer health and social responsibility. In addition, some countries, like the UK, are seeking to impose a 'sugar tax' on high-sugar products. As Nestlé’s new sugar product is still natural sugar, rather than an artificial sweetener, it is likely to be more acceptable to consumers, who may worry about the use of artificial food ingredients or simply dislike the taste of sweeteners.
Nestlé is currently seeking patents on the new product and as such, is giving out very little information. However, chief technology officer Stefan Catsicas likened the process to making hollow sugar crystals, in which the sugar is simply differently distributed. The crystals dissolve more quickly on the tongue, giving a faster burst of sweetness to the tastebuds.
'Real food in nature is not something smooth and homogeneous. It’s full of cavities, crests and densities. So by reproducing this variability, we are capable of restoring the same sensation,' he said.
The Swiss food giant plans to begin using the new formulation sugar in confectionery products from 2018 onwards, and says that it will provide more information about the reduced-sugar products in the new year. Catsicas said that the new formulation sugar will be increased in products gradually, to avoid a sudden change in flavour.
Nestlé is not the first to try such an approach to reduce the content of an ‘unhealthy’ component in food. University of Nottingham spinout company Eminate licensed its technology to make hollow salt crystals, or microspheres, to Tate & Lyle in 2011. SODA-LO is now a commercial product. In 2013, the technology was also adapted to sodium bicarbonate, used as a raising agent, to help lower the sodium content of baked goods.
Earlier this year, University of Birmingham visiting professor and food scientist Peter Lillford looked at the formulation challenges related to reducing the sugar content of fizzy drinks in an article for The Chemical Engineer.
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