At the onset of the pandemic, many consumers sought more comfort and indulgence in food and beverages than ever before, which often included sugar. But then the reality set in that comfort eating not only leads to significant weight gain, but also affects immunity and mental health, leading to heightened consumer awareness of holistic health and wellness.
As a result, 66% of global consumers reported the pandemic made them more conscious about their overall health, according to a report this year by FMCG Gurus.
While the taste of sweetness can provide a sense of security, joy, nostalgia, or escape, over-indulgence in sugary diets can lead to serious health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Consumers should be serious about sugar consumption, yet taste and enjoyment remain the primary reasons people turn to particular products. And better-for-you products that are also delicious can be hard to find.
Traditionally, in Hispanic foods, sugar is enjoyed in Mexican bread (pan dulce), candy (dulces), fried-dough with cinnamon and sugar (churros), and citrus-based, full-sugar soft drinks (bebidas).
The challenge is for brands to reimagine classic Hispanic-inspired foods with less sugar, and explore new food and beverage product innovations with nature-based sweeteners. Beyond the obvious foods and beverages where sugar is used, such as soft drinks, the sweet substance is often hidden in unlikely foods, such as barbecue sauce, salad dressings, and fruit-filled yogurt.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that American kids and adults consume 17 teaspoons of added sugars daily. This concern is worrying worldwide governments, consumers, and non-profit food organizations, making sugar reduction a global health priority. Mexico mandates front-of-pack warning labels on food and beverages, warning consumers of foods that are high in calories, sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium, and those containing non-caloric sweeteners.
“Sugar reduction is a concern in Hispanic food and beverages, and Sweegen is actively innovating new ways for brands to make better-for-you products without sugar,” said Liliana del Valle, senior director of business development at Sweegen, a global leader in sugar reduction solutions.
Del Valle heads the Sweegen Latin American operation in Mexico City. “If we take care of ourselves now, we are preparing to be well into the future,” del Valle said. “We’ve invested in Innovation Studios and expert teams worldwide to collaborate with global brands on creating a healthy profile of existing favorites and new products, replacing up to 80-100% sugar while honoring local and regional tastes.”
Innova Market Insights research indicates half of consumers globally want to reduce or limit sugar in their diet. Over 20% of global consumers surveyed find stevia to be a natural sweetening source, and with that, the use of stevia in global food and beverages is steadily rising. New product launches made with stevia (and no added sugar) continue to attract consumers.
According to Innova Database, since 2010, more than 39,000 products were launched with stevia around the world. Rates of new stevia-based food and beverage product launches globally have increased by 12.5% in the past five years.
Sweeteners made from stevia plant leaves have no calories or carbohydrates, and stevia can be 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar.
Natural sweeteners, like stevia, are becoming more popular in food and beverages in the United States, Mexico, and other Latin American countries. According to Innova Market Insights, Stevia is one of the fastest growing natural sweeteners of food and beverage product launches in the LATAM region, and the leading claim for chocolate and sugar confectionary in this region is low or no sugar.
However, not all stevia products are created equal. Early iterations of the plant-based sweetener have a reputation for unappealing notes, but Sweegen’s new generation of stevia and exclusive sweetener systems provide an optimized taste profile, and expanded product developers’ sugar reduction toolkits allow food and beverage makers to become more creative in developing better-for-you products.
With headquarters based in Southern California and a global a presence, Sweegen is known for pioneering new ingredient technologies and innovations, providing “sweet-taste, zero-sugar solutions” for food and beverage manufacturers worldwide. It is the primary producer of the in-demand, non-GMO (rebaudioside M) Reb M originating from the stevia leaf, which is made with a proprietary clean bioconversion method.
As stevia’s best-tasting molecules occur only in small quantities in its leaves, Sweegen bioconversion technology produces clean, zero-calorie stevia sweeteners that offer the closest taste to real sugar.
With the new generation of stevia, consumers don’t have to sacrifice taste to reduce sugar.
“The stevia you grew up with has advanced over the years into a consumer-appealing sweetener to replace sugar,” said Casey McCormick, VP of global innovation at Sweegen. “New technology has enabled us to uncover the best-tasting rebaudiosides in the stevia leaf. We can create a sugar-like character for a delicious sensory experience without the calories.
“It’s much closer to the sweetness sensation you get from sugar versus anything you’ve been able to do with stevia or artificial compounds up until now.”
Sweegen doesn’t source stevia from GMO corn or sugar beets, unlike other stevia producers. Its Signature Stevia portfolio contains the widest variety of best-tasting stevia sweeteners, including Reb M, Reb E, Reb D, and many others.
“Through Sweegen’s modern stevia technology, we’re providing the essential sugar reduction tools for product developers to reimagine how to create sweetness without sacrificing taste,” said Mar Avila, application technology manager at Sweegen, LATAM. “When you taste low-calorie food and beverages made with the new-generation stevia, and it tastes good, it’s something you want to share with the world.”
Since replacing sugar in food and beverages can pose product development challenges due to the texture, viscosity, and mouthfeel sugar provides, Sweegen’s product developers, known as Taste Blazers, take a “Creative Building Block” approach to design products made with innovative stevia-based sweetener systems, adding various elements (and sometimes taking out others) to create the sweetness consumers expect from their favorite foods and beverages.
Sweegen’s range of advanced nature-based sweeteners and sweetener systems, along with a broad portfolio of unique flavor compounds for taste modulation, is unparalleled in the industry. Sweegen has developed Bestevia® Taste Blazer Full Solutions, which are a range of ingredient solutions that use Sweegen’s new-generation stevia sweeteners, in combination with proprietary flavors and best-in-class texturants, to help solve product development challenges related to sugar reduction.
Bestevia® Taste Blazer Full Solutions are offered for a range of food applications, including beverages, dairy, bakery, confectionery, condiments, sauces, and nutritional/weight management and sports nutrition products. Stevia is versatile in application, making it an ideal sugar replacement for consumers seeking a sweetener that meets their demands for a cleaner, reduced-sugar diet.
As a sweetness technology leader, Sweegen is working on bringing more Signature Sweeteners to market, including Ultratia™ Brazzein, a sweet protein found in the West African oubli plant that’s up to 2,000 times sweeter than sugar.
In the future, Sweegen’s expertise will provide the food and beverage industry with an ever-wider range of nature-based, zero-calorie sweetness options that will significantly increase the diversity of great tasting, plant-based options for better-for-you sweetness. These unique solutions will be critical for meeting consumers’ desire for food and beverage options that enable their holistic approach to wellness.
Sweegen works with brands to develop products at their global Innovation Studios, with locations in Southern California, Mexico City, the U.K, and more. It has an exclusive licensing agreement with Conagen, specializing in molecular biology and scaling up products for commercial use.
Sweegen has extensive global regulatory approvals worldwide, including in the United States and Latin America, for its stevia sweeteners and taste modulators. For example, Sweegen’s Signature Bestevia® portfolio of nature-based sweeteners and sweetener systems is now accessible to brands in Mexico after the country’s food safety authority adopted the Codex specification.
To learn more about Sweegen’s stevia innovations, visit www.sweegen.com.