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THE NUMBER of people in Asia suffering from Type 2 diabetes, largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity, is on the rise. As a result, the maintenance of healthy blood glucose and insulin levels is becoming a rising focus, not just because of the health risks involved if ignored, but also because consumers recognize taking too much sugar as an unhealthy habit.

In March this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged the Southeast Asian countries to promote educational campaigns regarding self-management of diabetes, and to make its treatment more cost-effective. According to Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO Southeast Asia, diabetes is of particular concern in the South East Asia Region because more than one out of every four of the 3.7 million diabetes-related deaths globally occur in this region. If diabetes prevalence continues to rise, the personal, social and economic consequences will deepen. She goes on to say, “Type 2 Diabetes is both preventable and treatable if detected early. If not properly managed, the disease causes serious damage to every major organ in the body, resulting in heart attacks, strokes, blindness and nerve damage1.”

Mintel says the number of new no/low sugar packaged drinks and food launches from the year 2011 to 2015 increased by nearly 25 percent   (Photo credit: Shutterstock courtesy of Ingredion)

The market demand for lower-calorie products

Humans are drawn to consume sweet drinks and food largely because sweetness is associated with high hedonic appeal and high energy content. According to a paper on Sweetness and Food Preference2 published in the Journal of Nutrition, sensory pleasure derived from tasting sweet substances has an innate basis, and tasting something sweet leads to the activation of pleasure-generating brain circuitry.

This explains the wide consumer appeal of sweet tasting food and beverages, but modern consumers are also becoming more health-conscious and aware of the detriments and risks of high sugar consumption. They are increasingly demanding healthier alternatives, preferably without giving up the sweet taste in their foods. As manufacturers seek to meet this demand, a clear distinction has to be made between the perceptions of sweetness and sugar.

Globally, manufacturers are responding to this trend by actively reducing the sugar content in their food and beverage products. According to market research firm Mintel, there was a close to 25 percent increase in the number of new no/low sugar packaged drinks and food launches from the year 2011 to 2015. AC Nielsen has also identified the healthy movement as a tremendous opportunity for food manufacturers and retailers to take the lead in providing what consumers want and need3.

Sugar alternatives must offer the indulgent sweetness of sugar, otherwise products taste flat or bland (Photo credit: Shutterstock courtesy of Ingredion)

Sweeteners – a healthier alternative to sugar?

While it is clear that majority of consumers now prefer their food and beverages to contain little or no sugar4, in many cases reduced or no sugar products tend to taste bland, or simply feel different from the original. This is because when sugar is reduced or completely removed from a recipe, the product no longer tastes as sweet and delicious.

To overcome this challenge, many manufacturers have turned to high intensity sweeteners (HIS) to replace sugar in their product recipes, so as not to compromise on taste and sweetness. The benefits of HIS are that they are calorie-free and have higher relative sweetness compared to the same amount of granulated sugar, so a little goes a very long way.

In response to consumers’ needs, Ingredion has developed delicate HIS solutions with a balanced sweetness profile. These HIS solutions are popular with manufacturers because it has a sugar-like taste and is highly versatile when it comes to both food and beverage applications.

The body of a low sugar product is sometimes lost in the reduction of sugar. This, along with the loss of sweetness in low sugar options, results in products which are often not as popular as their full sugar versions, despite being positioned as a healthier alternative. Most consumers are simply not willing to compromise on the overall texture, taste and eating experience. Ensuring that the sweetness and texture is built back and balanced in the final formulation is critical to the acceptance of the product.

Combining the best of both worlds

Ingredion offers sweetness solutions and texture expertise that deliver sucrose-like taste profiles with the mouthfeel of sugar, enabling food formulators to create innovative sweet treats and beverages to delight consumers. Achieving the desired sensory experience is made possible by rebalancing taste, enhance sweetness and building back texture in reduced calorie and reduced sugar products.

According to a January 2015 study conducted by global marketing research firm AC Nielsen on Healthy Eating Trends around the World5, consumers are going back to basics when it comes to the food they eat. When respondents were asked to rate attributes from very important to not important in their purchase decisions. The most desirable attributes are foods that are fresh, natural and minimally processed. Foods with all natural ingredients and those without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are each considered very important to 43 percent of global respondents—the highest percentages of the 27 attributes included in the study.

Ingredion offers a wide-ranging portfolio of non-GMO sweeteners. Key products include the SWEETIS series – a sweetener solution that tastes like sucrose, offering sugar content but with calorie reduction, the ENLITEN® series – natural sweeteners produced from fully-owned stevia plantation that are protected by a strictly-enforced crop-to-consumer production process, resulting in superior quality consistency, and the BIOLIGO® series – natural sweeteners that enhance sweetness with prebiotic functionalities. The company’s sweetener solutions can be used in a versatile range of applications, such as beverages, dairy, bakery, confectionery, sauces and dressings.

New sugar alternatives not only satisfy the sweet tooth, but are low in calories as well (Photo credit: Shutterstock courtesy of Ingredion)

Understanding consumer acceptance of texture and sweetness

Ingredion’s sweetness capability in APAC is able to provide customized alternative sugar profiling solutions for customers to bring products to market faster, and also to create successful and tastier products. Customers benefit from deep consumer insights, sensory, applications and process technology expertise to create the just-right sweetness and performance required. Combining sweetness and texture to create products with the ultimate combination of sensory experience and performance, Ingredion’s proprietary DIAL-IN® Sweetness and Texture technology is a five step process that combines proprietary consumer insights and sensory analytics with deep formulation and process expertise.

With this, customers can reduce trial and error, speeding up their time to market and saving them time and money. It takes a thorough, data-driven approach to understand consumer perceptions of texture, and subsequently use this insight as a basis for new product or existing product development. From converting consumer language to sensory and rheological language, and subsequently finalizing the formulation of a sweetness and texture solution that optimizes and enhances, Ingredion’s comprehensive technology and expertise enable customers to achieve the product sweetness and texture they want more efficiently and accurately.

In a case study, Ingredion’s SWEETIS sweetener solution was successfully incorporated in a beverage to replace sugar content and retain a pleasant taste profile. Similarly, in another example, Ingredion’s integrated sweetness and texture solutions were used to replace artificial high-intensity sweeteners and gum in a re-formulation to reduce calories in a beverage powder mix.


There is great demand for sugar alternatives in the market today, due to changing consumer requirements, ranging from the increase in obesity, diabetes, health concerns, weight-loss reasons, to simply wanting to live healthier lifestyles.

There are many sugar alternatives in the market today, but not all sugar alternative options are created equal. When replacing sugar, food formulators have to ensure that their products continue to taste the same and have the same full textural body as the full-sugar options. This is why it is important for manufacturers to choose sweeteners that are able to convey the same, or even enhanced, sweet and delicious taste as sugar with rich, indulgent and authentic textures.

*Dina Yeon is Marketing Manager, Sweetness Springboard, APAC   


1Regional Office for South-East Asia, World Health Organization, ‘Urgent, concerted efforts needed to stem diabetes epidemic: WHO’, 29 March 2016, http://www.searo.who.int/mediacentre/releases/2016/1620/en/

2 Drewnowski, A., Mennella, J. A., Johnson, S. L., & Bellisle, F. (2012). Sweetness and Food Preference. The Journal of Nutrition. doi:10.3945/jn.111.149575  (http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2012/05/02/jn.111.149575.full.pdf)

3‘We are what we Eat – Healthy Eating Trends Around the World’, AC Nielsen, January 2015,  http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/nielsenglobal/eu/nielseninsights/pdfs/Nielsen%20Global%20Health%20and%20Wellness%20Report%20-%20January%202015.pdf

 4‘The Sugar Backlash and its Effects on Global Consumer Markets’, Euromonitor, November 2014, http://www.euromonitor.com/the-sugar-backlash-and-its-effects-on-global-consumer-markets/report

 5‘We are what we Eat – Healthy Eating Trends Around the World’, AC Nielsen, January 2015,  http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/nielsenglobal/eu/nielseninsights/pdfs/Nielsen%20Global%20Health%20and%20Wellness%20Report%20-%20January%202015.pdf


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