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A Semi-Sweet Horizon: Stylus’ Emilia Morano-Williams Talks Future of Sugar Alternatives

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Emilia Morano-Williams, US editor at trends intelligence business Stylus discusses her recent article on sugar alternatives.

As the demand for sugar substitutes continues to steadily rise, brands are beginning to venture into the evolving market. For instance, Ocean Spray has partnered with Israel sugar-reduction start-up, Amai Proteins, to create sugar-reduced juice options for the brand. The booming market comes with much competition and possible obstacles in production.

In a recent analysis, Evolving Sugar: Four Breakout Sugar Alternatives for 2021, Emilia Moreno-Williams, U.S. editor at trends intelligence firm Stylus, outlined four sugar replacements she predicts will lead the industry in 2021: allulose (FEMA# 4897, CAS# 551-69-8), Zùsto, DouxMatok and Amai Proteins.

In this interview, Morano-Williams discusses which of the mentioned sweeteners will shine the brightest in the market this year and talks possible next steps for companies exploring flavor blends. 

Perfumer & Flavorist+ [P&F+]: Which sweetener do you think is most likely to dominate the next wave of sweetener usage in the industry? Why?

Emilia Moreno-Williams [EMW]: From a mass-manufacturer perspective, I’m expecting allulose to increase its market traction. It’s an extremely appealing option from both a manufacturer and a consumer perspective. 

The FDA has classified it as a non-nutritive sweetener, which means that it doesn’t impact a product’s calorie count and doesn’t need to be included in the added sugar panel on a nutrition label–a clear boon as more and more Americans look to reduce their sugar consumption and as manufacturers seek to capitalise on low-carb diets like keto.

While we’ve seen plenty of low-calorie sugar alternatives proliferate in recent years–from stevia to erythritol–they’ve all experienced unique issues, whether that’s a bitter aftertaste from stevia or digestion issues caused by sugar alcohols. 

Allulose benefits from not having that baggage associated with it. That’s not to say there are no drawbacks–the lack of research is a significant roadblock–but it makes it an appealing option in the eyes of most consumers.

 

P&F+: What makes it the obvious candidate to be the leader? 

EMW: Unlike stevia or monk fruit–which are hyper-sweet and can leave a bitter aftertaste–allulose generally behaves like sugar. It’s typically granulated, has roughly 70% the sweetness of conventional sugar and can be used in everything from baking to ice cream. 

Allulose also undergoes the Maillard reaction when cooking, helping add that caramel-y flavor to baked goods. These are all huge benefits when it comes to recreating an existing (and well-loved) product in a reduced-sugar format.

 

P&F+: Are there any unique technical elements of the sweetener that would affect product development? Like, off-taste, for example.

EMW: While allulose doesn’t have the same slightly bitter aftertaste that’s dogged alternatives like stevia and monk fruit, it’s not exactly suitable for a one-to-one replacement. For one thing, it doesn’t have the full sweetness of sugar. 

I’m also interested in seeing more research that can speak to its long-term dietary effects. While the FDA has approved allulose, it’s still not accepted in Europe, and so I’d err on the side of caution and think of using allulose more as a way to reduce rather than replace sugar. 

That being said, we’re starting to see some products be released that do rely on allulose as the exclusive sweetener. One I’m particularly interested in is the chocolate brand GoodSam, which has developed dark chocolate bars and baking chips relying only on allulose as a sweetener.

At this point, however, I’d encourage companies who are interested in experimenting with allulose to explore blends. There are some fascinating ones on the market, such as IconiSweet from Oregon ingredients manufacturer Icon Foods, which combines allulose with stevia, monk fruit and erythritol for a replacement that off-sets all their negatives for a product with a clean taste and wide appeal.

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