Is playing with the structure of sugar the future of reformulation?

Bell Flavors & Fragrances is the latest company to create a product that addresses sugar reduction not only through taste, but also functionality.

5 March 2019
image credit: Getty Images

What’s rolling in on the reformulation train?

Another sugar reduction product – but this one claims to offer a natural and functional solution as it mimics the molecular composition of sugar.

It comes from ingredient manufacturer Bell Flavors & Fragrances and the product, called Redsugar, is said to deliver at least a 30% reduction in sugar, according to the company.

It took a team of flavourists, application technologists and sensory experts a year to create the product.

Right. What’s so special about this sugar replacement then?

Apparently it reproduces sugar’s molecular structure, meaning it helps close the sugar gap by keeping “complex matrixes” in place. That’s the technical explanation from the company, anyway.

Put more simply, it not only fills the taste vacuum created by the removal of sugar, but also replaces functional benefits of the sweet stuff like texture and mouthfeel.

However, Bell is being very secretive otherwise. It won’t reveal the active ingredients being used, saying only that the solution is based on raw materials that would allow manufacturers to make clean label claims. No word on how these natural structures are created either.

Messing around with sugar’s structure seems to be a bit of a thing. Is this a new trend coming?

Nestlé actually did something similar to create its chocolate range of Milkybar Wowsomes, which it said has 30% less sugar than similar products. The researchers transformed the structure of sugar through a process that created aerated, porous particles of sugar that dissolved more quickly in the mouth – allowing someone to perceive the same level of sweetness as before while consuming less sugar.

There’s also Israeli start-up DouxMatok, which has developed a carrier system for sugar that makes the sugar molecule travel straight to the sweetness receptors on taste buds and stay there as long as possible. This delivery method means the same sweetness is tasted with 40% less sugar. It expects to launch its first product using its solution by the end of 2019.

Which products has this helped to sweeten?

Soft drinks, of course, along with bakery and dairy products, like yoghurt and ice cream.

Whether additional, complementary ingredients are also needed when reformulating depends on the category and the desired product attributes, said Agneta Hoffmann, Bell’s flavour team leader.

“If sugar is an active part in the product for any technical reason or as a stabiliser, for example within bakery products, some texturisers or other substitutes might be needed in order to keep the product’s appearance,” she told Food Spark’s sister site Food Navigator.

“Being a natural flavour, our solution might not help to provide viscosity or volume, of course.”

For example in bakery, the browning of the product may be decreased, but in beverages no further texturisers are required because sugar doesn’t play a functional role, she said.

Bell’s own research found that almost 90% of global consumers pay attention to sugar, sweetness or related claims when purchasing foods or drinks.

“The industry is therefore facing challenges, as successful products need to be adapted using less sugar, while still meeting high expectations regarding naturalness, indulgence and sensory attributes,” the company noted.

So a lot of the usual food suspects have been targeted. Any surprises?

It’s in the works, according to Hoffmann, as Bell is looking to create further products for other categories and adapt its range based on novel ingredients or raw materials.

“We are currently working on product solutions for sugar reduction within the savoury category, with a focus on sauces such as ketchup,” she said.

In other words, things are getting saucy.

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