The pandemic disrupted consumers' diets as they foraged kitchen pantries and refrigerators to make better food choices. Consumer behaviour towards nutrition and the sources of food from which they fortify themselves have changed.
Concerns regarding obesity and weight gain associated with diabetes and other health disorders are very real. In a Mintel poll of UK consumers managing their weight, 47% agree that the COVID-19 outbreak made them more worried about the impact of their weight on their health.
As a result, consumers are interested in exploring a healthier lifestyle and are seeking better food and nutritional options. Consumers are reassessing their diets and are inspired to set new health and wellness goals.
For example, in a global Innova Nutrition & Health Survey , 46% of consumers said they have decreased their sugar intake since the start of the pandemic. This poll includes European countries France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Consumers look to brands for smart food and drink alternatives to help them attain their weight loss and maintenance goals. Meal replacement products with weight loss claims are leading launches with smoothies, nutritional bars, and the like.
That said, it is an ideal time for brands to innovate and reformulate new products for weight management. Brands must choose ingredients well because taste and consumer acceptance are essential to repeat purchases.
Brands are exploring sugar reduction solutions after recognizing consumer awareness of the health hazards of increased sugar intake. Still, there isn't an all-in-one solution, especially for products containing ingredients such as vitamins, caffeine, and other functional ingredients in meal replacement food and drinks. These ingredients exude bitterness and off-tastes that sugar can mitigate; but, the calories from sugar are not preferred.
Sugar is complex, and it plays important functional roles in food and drinks. It has a naturally sweet taste with bulk and mouthfeel properties for making products taste whole. It's a wonderful natural masking agent for product developers. It is inexpensive to use; however, the price consumers are paying with their health is not free.
Therefore, a call for using less sugar in products by trade associations, governments, and consumers is loud and clear. The pressure brands are facing is a small fraction of the problem.
Tackling sugar reduction is not an easy hurdle for creating consumer-winning products, but it's not impossible.
When product developers remove sugar, the volume of sugar bulk and mouthfeel are removed. Because the sweetness from sugar improves palatability and modulates flavours, other functions of sugar are equally impacted, such as taste, texture, flavour, colour, and preservation.
Ingredients for replacing sugar can affect overall product costs, ingredient labels, marketing statements/claims, natural vs. artificial, GMO, and much more.
Brands that can deliver products with the most sugar-like taste with fewer calories will have the most to gain. Most producers realize this and are seeking to find the holy grail of sugar reduction.
A New Solution for Europe
So, how can brands in Europe create great-tasting products with fewer calories?
A great starting point is exploring solutions for clean label sugar reduction. Stevia is an ideal example. However, many product developers struggled with the taste profile of first-generation stevia ingredients like Reb A.
The good news for European brands is that Sweegen, a leader in sugar reduction solutions, changed the sugar reduction landscape by introducing the newest stevia technology in Europe-- Signature Bestevia Reb M, approved by the EU Commission this year.
Sweegen's proprietary bioconversion process enables broad-scale production of new and better-tasting sweetener molecules like Reb M, which are only present in small quantities in the stevia plant. It is one of the best-tasting stevia sweeteners to expand product developers' toolkits for reducing sugar in products.
Sweegen's Reb M innovation enables a deep reduction in sugar and is a key foundation for Sweegen's Bestevia® Taste Solutions for Europe. This EU regulatory compliant solutions platform offers a wide range of sugar reduction solutions ranging from 30% to 100% sugar replacement in beverages, dairy, weight management products, condiments, and many other applications.
To serve brands across Europe with sugar reduction solutions, Sweegen opened its UK Innovation Studio just outside of London to inspire and help brands with creating consumer-winning products.
The company has also opened the largest global stevia manufacturing plant. It will provide a local and reliable supply of stevia across Europe with short response times. This is crucial for clients and one of the key differentiators in Europe's landscape for sugar reduction.
Sweegen is a sugar reduction solution and product development service provider able to support brands in reducing sugar and creating products that match health and wellness consumer trends. The company is looking Well into the Future to bring greater sugar reduction and wellness to European brands and consumers.