Sugar reduction tops reformulation agenda as UK sugar tax beckons

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06 Mar 2018 --- In recent years, a trend for healthier lifestyles has emerged and consumers have become increasingly aware of the ingredients in their food and drinks. As EU sugar consumption figures reach nearly 32kg per person per year, sugar reduction has become the health trend under the spotlight. In fact, one month from today (April 6, 2018), the much-debated sugar tax will come into effect in the UK.

Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have unveiled a new plan to help people cut excessive calories from their diets, as part of the government’s strategy to curb childhood and adult obesity. The health bodies are challenging the food industry to reduce calories in products consumed by families by 20 percent by 2024. You can read the full article about the plans on our sister website NutritionInsight today. 
 
From April 6, 2018, a sugar tax will come into effect in the UK, with essentially two bands of products.
 
These are:
• A lower rate of 18 pence per liter for drinks with a total sugar content between 5-8g per 100ml.
• A higher rate of 24 pence per liter for drinks with total sugar more than 8g per 100ml.
 
Drinks with a sugar content lower than 5g per 100ml will not be subject to the levy.

The UK is not alone in taking this taxing route and Ireland will also introduce a similar scheme this April. Since 2010, various strategies have been employed around the world, with some success reported in Mexico, but other countries such as Denmark and Finland stopping it.

There is increasing pressure on manufacturers and brand owners from consumers and legislators to reduce the levels of sugar in all products, particularly soft drinks. However, while consumers want healthier foods with reduced sugar, they are unwilling to compromise on taste.

New consumer research from Kerry has indicated:
•    One in three European consumers 
are drinking less soft drinks than a year ago.
•    52 percent of consumers buy less soft drinks, because of their high sugar content.
•    60 percent of consumers are looking for more low-sugar drinks.
•    Not all consumers are satisfied with the existing offers, 30 percent associate “healthier drinks” with poorer taste.
 
While the beverage industry has responded to this demand by producing drinks with low and 0 percent sugar, research shows that 63 percent of consumers are worried about their health implications, with over half saying that they don’t like their taste.
Click to Enlarge
John Kelly, Senior Marketing Manager,
Beverage at Kerry Taste & Nutrition

Interestingly, a recent poll conducted in a live webinar hosted by FoodIngredientsFirst and presented by Kerry yesterday finds that 64 percent of the industry believes that reducing sugar in Sweet Confectionery & Bakery will be most challenging, despite ingredient innovation thriving in this area. This application area was followed by Beverages on 20 percent.

“The soft drinks market looks set for growth in 2018 and beyond, development and innovation will be driven by consumers’ changing flavor preferences, the trend to consume less alcohol and the introduction of a ‘sugar tax’ in many European markets,” John Kelly, Senior Marketing Manager, Beverage at Kerry Taste & Nutrition tells The World of Food Ingredients in an interview to appear in the March 2018 issue. “The introduction of the sugar tax across many European markets is having a significant effect on the soft drinks industry/ significant impact on soft – drink manufacturers. We have been working with customers over the past 18 months to accelerate the ‘better for you’ trend, which is dominating right now.”

Kelly stresses that sugar taxes are now a reality and the industry must respond by meeting consumer demand from both a price and a taste perspective while reducing sugar content. “Traditionally, high-intensity sweeteners have been used to reduce sugar, but many of these are now on consumer ‘no-no’ lists and have been red flagged by consumer advocates and bloggers. In addition to consumer perception, while returning perceived sweetness, they cannot deliver the lost functionality, taste and mouthfeel of sugar,” he notes. “This provides an opportunity for innovative food and beverage companies. How do we help our customers reduce sugar content, without sacrificing function or taste?”

“At Kerry, to address this issue, we have created a new product called TasteSense Sweet. The solution can not only reduce sugar content by up to 30 percent but can also build back the sweetness that is lost, when sugar is reduced, allowing consumers to enjoy the taste and mouthfeel that sugar delivers, without the negative labeling impact,” Kelly explains.

Further information about Kerry's sugar reduction solutions can be found here.

Dean Francis, Chief Executive Officer of sweetener supplier Sweet Green Fields Co., Ltd. notes that everyone in the beverage business knows how the two trends of sugar reduction and clean label are changing the soft drink landscape. But not all people understand how the interactions between these two trends are impacting the industry. 

Click to Enlarge
Dean Francis, Chief Executive Officer of  
Sweet Green Fields 

“Direction from consumers and the legislative bodies make high level added sugars the top ‘public enemy.’ Non-nutritive sweeteners could be the cure for lowering the calories in soft drinks, but the sales of the two biggest diet cola have registered an over 5 percent decline in 2015. More and more consumers are putting artificial sweeteners in the list of ingredients to avoid. The top ten 2018 trends released by Innova Insights show, ‘Mindful choices’ and ‘Lighter enjoyment’ are playing a greater role in today’s soft drink space. No/low-cal, but naturally sweetened drinks will continue to be a rising category,” Francis says.

Sweet Green Fields partnering with Tate & Lyle offers a comprehensive range of stevia sweeteners that are extracted from the stevia leaf. Zero calorie and natural sourced makes stevia one of the most applied sweeteners in new beverage products launched globally because stevia addresses to both sugar reduction and clean label demands. SGF’s stevia products – Intesse and Optimizer Stevia – solve stevia’s intrinsic challenges: taste and cost. Respectively for high and medium sugar reduction, these two proprietary products lines deliver sweetness without bitterness or unpleasant aftertaste. The Optimizer Stevia portfolio reflects our commitment to lowering cost-in-use and helps clients save 20-30 percent of related costs when compared to regular high purity stevia sweetener RA97.

“The spreading sugar taxes and levies are a very strong force driving the global beverage manufacturers to reformulate their products with less added sugar. During the last two years, since UK tax proposals were published in March 2016, the sales of the market-leading soft drinks experienced more or less drops,” says Francis.
 
“We believe there will be more and deeper sugar reduction need when the sugar tax come into effect in April 2018. Beverage manufacturers have been working hard on identifying sugar alternatives that could help them formulate successful products with great taste and lower cost. Sweet Green Fields with Tate & Lyle have been proactively working with drink manufacturers on innovative stevia sweetening solutions, such as Intesse and Optimizer Stevia, in the efforts to transform the legislative pressure into a healthy positioning for the drinks,” he notes.
 
Click to Enlarge
James Blunt, Senior Vice President and
Interim General Manager, Tate & Lyle
James Blunt, Senior Vice President and Interim General Manager, Stevia at Tate & Lyle says: “With the soft drinks levies being introduced in the UK, Ireland other European countries and the health and wellness trend continuing to affect purchasing decisions, sugar reduction in beverages will remain a key trend as we look into 2018 and beyond. Manufacturers will continue to manage their formulation challenges as they balance consumers’ demand for low sugar beverages that don’t compromise on taste.”

“Because high-potency sweeteners are significantly sweeter than sucrose, they are used at very low levels in formulations and only provide sweetness without the other functional attributes of sucrose. Manufacturers looking to effectively reduce sugar and calories in their formulations use other ingredients alongside the high-potency sweeteners to deliver the bulk and mouthfeel that sugar provides,” says Blunt.

“In beverages, for example, achieving the appropriate sweetness intensity and mouthfeel in low-/no-sugar beverages can be tricky. Ingredients like soluble fibers are also increasingly used to build back mouthfeel and body to a beverage, which is often missing from reduced sugar drinks. As a result, we’ve seen a growing interest among manufacturers seeking to incorporate fibers in drinks, both to reduce sugar but also respond to the trend for functional ingredients in beverages,” he concludes.
 
These three and many more interviews with suppliers regarding soft drinks trends and the effects of the sugar tax in the UK will appear in the March 2018 issue of The World of Food Ingredients
 
By Robin Wyers

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

Kerry

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Kerry is responding to consumer demand for real ingredients with better, more authentic and nutritious taste experiences. With 40 years’ experience and 24,000 staff on six continents, Kerry has a renewed focus on Taste & Nutrition where the science of taste merges with the science of nutrition. They combine a deep understanding of taste with an in-depth knowledge of people, culture, life stage and daily nutritional needs. By partnering with Kerry, customers are taken on a journey to make food, beverage and pharma products that people enjoy and feel better about. Kerry calls this Leading to Better.

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