Thursday, August 1, 2019

Reducing Sugar in Dairy Products Often Requires a Multi-Prong Approach

Less sugar is the norm. Consumers are reading labels and many use the sugar—and added sugar--content of foods as basis for the decision to purchase and consume.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2019 Food and Health Survey shows that four out of five (80%) shoppers are limiting or avoiding sugars in foods. A higher percentage of 65-plus years old consumers use the Nutrition Facts to choose products with lower sugar.

This IFIC data is reinforced by Innova Market Insights’ research showing one in two U.S. Baby Boomers has been reducing sugar intake or buying more reduced-sugar products, while two in five are cutting back on their consumption of sweet snacks. This includes ice cream.

This trend is supported by research into the typical shopping basket.

“Boomers are below-average purchasers of certain sweet products such as chocolate, desserts, ice cream and snack bars,” says Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “In contrast, they are markedly more important in the yogurt, sweet baked goods and breakfast cereals categories, so these could offer opportunities for sugar reduction.”

The U.S. yogurt category is already seeing high levels of low/no sugar development, with 20% of all launches in 2018 carrying such claims, up from just 4% in 2013, according to Innova data.

Lower-sugar dairy-based beverages, on the other hand, present a growth opportunity when targeting Millennials. This includes less-sugar dairy-based beverages, such as flavored milk, smoothies, lattes and nutritional beverages.

That’s beverages play an immense role in Millennials’ lives, ranging from occasions orienting to indulgence, discovery, and health and wellness to ones focusing on convenient satiety. Seventy three percent of Millennials always have a beverage on hand, compared to 63% of Gen X and 58% of Boomers, according to The Hartman Group. That’s a lot of beverages being consumed. With less sugar, dairy-based options run a greater chance of being on the menu.

Indeed, Millennials have a broad range of beverage aspirations. The desire to drink more water and drink less soda and less sugar are linked to their health and wellness goals.

Pillars is the perfect example of a dairy beverage designed to appeal to Millennials, Baby Boomers and everyone in between. (That’s Gen X and includes me, the ignored generation.)

Pillars Drinkable Greek Yogurt rolled out about three years ago and continues to gain distribution across the country. The company is now adding Peach to its original five flavors: Coconut, Mixed Berry, Strawberry & Banana, and Vanilla. Each 12-ounce single-serve bottle of any flavor contains 100 calories, no fat, 18 grams of protein, 5 grams of sugar—with no added sugars--and 3 grams of fiber. The product relies on mildly cultured nonfat yogurt, quality organic fruit purees, fibers and organic stevia to achieve this low sugar content. Product claims include being made with milk from grass-fed cows, non-GMO, containing live and active probiotic cultures and containing prebiotic fiber. For more information, link HERE.

There are many approaches to reducing sugar in dairy foods. Industry experts recently conducted a review of ingredient and processing opportunities to reduce sugar in dairy products. The analysis “Invited review: Sugar reduction in dairy products,” was published in the October 2018 issue of Journal of Dairy Science. Link HERE to read it.

They specifically explored technologies to reduce sugar in ice cream, yogurt and flavored milk without sacrificing flavor.

“Dairy foods represent a large market,” explained lead investigator MaryAnne Drake, professor, Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at the Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center, North Carolina State University. “The dilemma of how to reduce sugar content without sacrificing flavor and negatively affecting product sales is challenging, as sugar plays an important role in dairy foods, not only in flavor, but also in texture, color and viscosity. Replacing sugar can have negative effects, making substitution inherently difficult.”

Source: International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2019 Food and Health Survey

Reducing sugar in dairy products often requires a multi-prong approach. That’s because when you take out sugar, it’s not just sweetness that is impacted. Further, when replacing sweetness, it’s important to understand how other ingredients in the matrix impact sensory perception. This includes texturants, fat and even the flavor system.

Dr. Drake and the other researchers identified numerous promising sugar-reduction technologies, including hydrolysis of lactose, ultrafiltration and alternative sweeteners, often in combination.

There’s also opportunity with sweet flavor modifiers. In fermented dairy foods, cultures can impact mouthfeel as well as acidity, which in turn influences sweetness perception.

Allulose presents one of the newest and possibly biggest opportunities for sugar reduction in dairy foods. This rare sugar tastes and functions similar to sugar while adding almost no calories. And since April 17, 2019, Food and Drug Administration’s draft guidance allows allulose to be excluded from the total sugars declaration and added sugars declaration on the Nutrition Facts label. Allulose has a similar taste profile to sugar and is 70% as sweet. To read more, link HERE.

“Understanding current sugar-reduction techniques, research and consumer response to sugar reduction in dairy products is important for dairy manufacturers in order to design and produce sugar-reduced products,” according to Dr. Drake. “Sugar reduction is an inherently difficult task due to the many functions of sugar in food products, but progress is being made in developing products acceptable to consumers.”

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