The low-carb trend may well be on a decline, but reduced-sugar foods are not facing a reduction--at least not these past few years. A 2004 Calorie Control Council (CCC, Atlanta) survey reveals that 84% of the participants regularly use low-calorie, reduced-sugar and/or sugar-free foods and beverages--up 73% from 1998--with an even greater use among dieters at 95%. Carbonated diet soft drinks are the most popular reduced-calorie/sugar-free products, followed by sugar-free/light non-carbonated soft drinks and sugar substitutes. More than eight out of 10 users--85%--want more sugar-reduced offerings.

Information Resources Inc. (IRI, Chicago) data shows double-digit growth from 2003 to 2004 for diet soft drinks and bottled water, while orange juice and regular soft drinks were down 4%. IRI also reports many new items in the category, most notably frozen novelties and diet candy (with diet and sugar-free sales showing a greater than 90% increase in the past year). Worldwide, ACNielsen (New York) tracking shows sugar substitutes experienced the fastest growth within the “healthy alternatives” category--10% from 2003 to 2004.

Sugared-down products have risen in just about every category where sugar can possibly be altered. Major players have entries in all the leading brands: Tropicana's (Bradenton, Fla.) Essentials Light 'n Healthy and Minute Maid's (Coca-Cola, Atlanta) Premium Light orange juice beverages claim half the sugar of regular orange juice; their respective parent companies debuted “mid-calorie” soft drinks with the same sugar reduction--Pepsi's (Purchase, N.Y.) Edge and Coca-Cola's C2--in the carbonated category. Kellogg's (Battle Creek, Mich.) introduced one-third less sugar Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops, while General Mills (Minneapolis) rolled out varieties of Trix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cocoa Puffs with 75% less sugar.

Hershey's (Hershey, Pa.) has an entire line of sugar-free offerings for Reese's, York Peppermint Patties, Jolly Ranchers and chocolate candy classics. Russell Stover (Kansas City, Mo.) boasts over 40 sugar-free candies of nearly every variety it makes. Breyer's (Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream, Green Bay, Wis.) and Edy's Grand/Dreyer's Grand (Oakland, Calif.) offer no-sugar-added ice creams. The Tasty Baking Company (Philadelphia) now features Tastykake Sensables--sugar-free cookie bars, finger cakes and doughnuts, and George Weston Bakeries' (Totowa, N.J.) Entenmann's brand is reportedly rolling out reduced-/low-sugar baked goods. Pillsbury (Minneapolis) has a line of sugar-free, ready-to-bake cookie dough, and the Food and Culinary Technology Group Inc. (FACT Corporation, Freehold, N.J.) has announced a retail line of sugar-reduced cookie, brownie, muffin, pancake and waffle baking mixes under its Nutrition First label.

Making an FDA Claim

To claim “reduced sugar” or any comparative variation thereof, FDA requires at least 25% less sugar than a similar reference food. Because FDA defines “sugars” as the sum of all free mono- and disaccharides--such as glucose, fructose, lactose, and sucrose--many of these products are sweetened with sugar alcohols or polyols. If any sugar claims are made, the sugar alcohol content, which is normally an optional declaration, must appear within the Nutrition Facts panel.

Individual sweetening agents differ in their food value. Sugar alcohols, for example, have fewer calories per gram than sugar, and do not promote tooth decay, because they are not broken down by saliva in the mouth like carbohydrates. However, with the exception of erythritol, which passes through the body unabsorbed, they do add calories. Erythritol presents unique labeling considerations because, at 0.2Kcal/g, it is FDA-approved to contribute zero calories for Nutrition Facts labeling, but still is factored into the total carbohydrate content declaration and, upon laboratory analyses, will yield a caloric content.

Experts note that excess consumption of polyols can lead to some digestive upset. While it generally is well established that sugar alcohols result in less of a blood sugar spike than simple sugars, this actual effect varies for individuals and depends on the amount consumed and how much fat and fiber is eaten at the same time.

Media Opines Its Opinions

The Food Marketing Institute's (Washington) “2004 Shopping For Health” survey reveals that sugar is now the top food or ingredient cited for reduction, to ensure a healthy diet. The CCC survey found that sugar-reduced products are reportedly used primarily to “stay in overall better health,” “eat or drink healthier foods and beverages” and “reduce calories.” Such inclinations undoubtedly are influenced by the media. Making headlines in major metro dailies and wire service articles, sugars linked to obesity and sugars associated with diabetes each logged well over 2,000 stories in the news during most of 2004, a continuing trend the past two years. “In the current environment of obesity and low-carb diets, consumers are concerned about sugars and health, and getting many mixed messages from the media--even before professionals come to a consensus,” noted Susan Borra, R.D., executive vice-president, International Food Information Council (Washington).

Julie Miller-Jones, Ph.D., professor of nutrition, College of St. Catherine (St. Paul, Minn.), asserts, “When sugar is present, consumers think 'less nutrients,' that it is food-less, robs nutrients. Consumers perceive that added sugars are far worse.” Yet most studies show that sugar has less to do with weight if calories are constant and in epidemiological studies when sugar intake is up and fat intake is down. While some studies do show that excess sugar can influence a higher risk for heart disease or a pre-disposition for diabetes, it is difficult to simultaneously determine contributing effects from the amount of fat or lack of fiber within the context of a whole meal. Physical activity and individual body fat status also play a role in research results. “Consumers need help sorting out dietary sugars vs. blood sugar effect,” says Miller-Jones. Susan Raatz, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of medicine, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), cited that within a controlled-carbohydrate diet balanced for diabetes control, sugar does not affect diabetes or triglycerides. “Sugars do not cause obesity or diabetes,” she concluded.

Borra, Miller-Jones and Raatz made presentations at the Oldways Preservation Trust (Boston) Consensus Conference, “Scientific Straight Talk on Sweetness and Health,” held last October in Mexico City to bring experts together to develop a consensus statement about sweetness and health; introduce the concept of managing sweetness with the Calorie Equation; and encourage consumers to wisely incorporate sweetness to enjoy the pleasures of food. Oldways president K. Dun Gifford believes, “The lessons of history teach that working cooperatively with industry technical experts and independent scientific experts has the highest possible chance for reaching realistic, successful and effective outcomes.” Together with their supporting patrons, The Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness (an independent organization within Coca-Cola) and additional sponsors Coca-Cola, Ajinomoto (Tokyo), Cargill (Wayzata, Minn.), Nutrinova (Somerset, N.J.) and Tate & Lyle (London), Oldways gathered a broad cross-section of expert participants, research and consulting speakers to search for solutions based on scientific straight talk.

Gifford feels strongly that the desire for sweetness can be fulfilled by caloric and/or non-caloric means; that the science is there but the message needs work. He stresses, “We need a 'lingua franca' to communicate with common resonance because sugar ingredient names on the label don't sound good and are not well understood by the consumer.” Particularly in regard to non-nutritive or sugar-alternative sweeteners, names are not consumer-friendly: “sugar-free” implies that sugar is bad; “sugar substitute” that another sweetener is not as good; “artificial sweetener” sounds derogatory; while “high-potency or intense sweeteners” are techie talk. The CCC prefers “low-calorie sweeteners” as an umbrella term, which could create another dilemma since “low-calorie” has a specific FDA definition for labeling purposes.


High-intensity Sweeteners, and Dietary Fiber and Bulking Agents

Cargill's Eridex[tm] erythritol from Food and Pharma Specialties offers food scientists an all natural/no-cal (0.2Kcal/g) bulk sweetener ideal for sugar-free, reduced-calorie and healthier, low-glycemic load products because erythritol has no effect on blood sugar levels. New products formulated with Eridex include Hershey's Sugar Free Pot of Gold Truffles and reduced-calorie, all natural Light Smoothies from Stonyfield Farms. Other applications include baked goods, confections, dairy products and desserts. Eridex erythritol reduces calories and improves the flavor, digestibility and texture of reduced-sugar products. It minimizes digestive tolerance and aftertaste problems sometimes experienced with other polyols. Cargill's Food and Pharma Specialty Business Unit, 877-650-7080,

Hi-maize resistant starch easily replaces flour and further lowers the glycemic impact of reduced-sugar foods. Hi-maize is a natural, type-2 resistant starch (RS2) supported by more than 120 published, peer-reviewed nutritional studies. The starch delivers the health advantages of fiber without changing the taste, texture or convenience of foods. Proven health benefits include caloric reduction, glycemic moderation, energy management, increased insulin sensitivity, as well as digestive health. National Starch Food Innovation, Rhonda Witwer, 908-685-2742,

GTC Nutrition is a recognized industry leader committed to providing natural, science-based ingredients to the food industry. The innovative ingredients in GTC Nutrition's product line are uniquely capable of promoting health while improving quality, taste and texture. The company offers sweeteners including xylitol, a natural polyol, which delivers all of the sweetness of sucrose with fewer calories, and NutraFlora[r] prebiotic fiber which, in addition to offering many health benefits, is 30% as sweet as sucrose. GTC Nutrition, 800-522-4682,,

These fibers are easy to use, label-friendly and healthy by nature! Scientists at J. Rettenmaier USA take the best Nature has to offer to create dietary fibers that provide multifunctional advantages and health-oriented benefits to a variety of foods. Available in a wide range of particle sizes, products include VITACEL[r] wheat, oat, sugarcane, cottonseed, bamboo, apple, and orange fibers, as well as powdered cellulose, cellulose gels and HEWETEN[r] microcrystalline cellulose. J. Rettenmaier USA, 877-895-4099,,

Fibersol-2 is a readily dispersible, tasteless source of dietary fiber (90% min. DSB) with many beneficial physiological properties. Fibersol-2 is perfect for beverages, including sports drinks and fortified waters, processed foods, baked goods, dairy products, dietetic foods, fiber supplements and functional foods. And when it comes to functionality, Fibersol-2 has some very impressive characteristics, including acid and heat stability, low viscosity, clear solution, prebiotic and high solubility. Matsutani America, 800-553-8411,

Apples are a good source of dietary fiber, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. Tree Top's low-moisture apple fiber contains 37% insoluble dietary fiber and 6% soluble dietary fiber. This versatile powder adds fiber so that ordinary foods become a fiber-added alternative. Fiber can be added to a variety of applications such as bakery items, pancakes, waffles, nutraceuticals, cereals and fruit leather. Samples available by phone or online. Tree Top, Jeannie Swedberg, 509-698-1435,,

Degussa Food Ingredients, Business Line Texturant Systems, answers the call for a great-tasting, no-sugar-added ice cream with Daritech[tm] FP Series. These products have an excellent sweetness profile, exhibit many of the same characteristics of regular sugar ice cream and have the convenience of a single source for all non-dairy ingredients. Degussa offers a complete blend of sugar replacers, bulking agents, and stabilizers/emulsifiers specifically designed to promote the most regular ice cream-like properties from processing and freezing to consumer acceptance. Degussa Food Ingredients, Susan Gurkin, 800-241-9485

The future of fiber! Historically functioning, among other things, as an emulsifier and stabilizer, acacia gum now has gone to the next level with FibregumTM. In addition to being an all-natural source of soluble dietary fiber (90% on dry extract through AOAC), Fibregum improves mouthfeel in reduced-sugar foods, helping customers formulate healthier products. Clinical studies have proven Fibregum's prebiotic effect, and new studies are demonstrating various other health benefits as well. Colloides Naturels Inc., Rachel Tepper, 800-872-1850,,

Maltisweet[tm] M95 is a breakthrough product containing the highest maltitol assay of any commercially available maltitol in solution. Unlike maltitol syrups which contain a significant amount of longer-chain polysaccharides, Maltisweet M95--if dried--would meet the FCC definition for maltitol. As such, Maltisweet M95 is a true maltitol solution: 90% as sweet as sucrose and 2.1Kcal/g on a dry basis. Applications include bakery, confectionery, frozen dairy, food and nutritional bars. SPI Polyols, 302-576-8600,

Frutalose[r] L85 from Sensus America is an inulin/FOS syrup extracted from chicory root, which consists of 85% short-chain inulin molecules (DP 2-10). Besides being an excellent source of dietary fiber and a natural sweetener, Frutalose L85 also has a low caloric value (1.9Kcal/g, dry solids), low glycemic index (GI) (20, compared to glucose: 100) and does not cause the same laxative effect as some sugar alcohols. Also, in contrast to the sugar alcohols that are synthetic additives, Frutalose L85 is a natural GRAS food ingredient. “Fiber enriched,” “good/excellent source of fiber,” “sugar reduced,” “fit for diabetics,” and “bifidogenic/prebiotic” are commonly used claims. Sensus America LLC, Connie Lin, 646-452-6146,,

Grain Processing Corporation (GPC) offers the largest selection of MALTRIN[r] maltodextrins and low Dextrose Equivalents (DE) corn syrup solids for achieving the most from a bulking agent. MALTRIN carbohydrates are available with a range of DE from 5 to 25, which provides the formulator with the means to control sweetness, solubility, browning, hygroscopicity, and a host of other functional attributes related to the degree of starch polymer hydrolysis. These products are available in the typical spray-dried form as well as instantized in an agglomerated version, providing options for dispersibility, flow and bulk density. Product bulletins, suggested trial formulations and samples are available. Grain Processing Corporation, Bob Bahn, 563-264-4265,,

Litesse[r] is a highly versatile, low-glycemic ingredient that allows calorie-counting consumers to reduce their sugar intake and add fiber to their diets. Litesse polydextrose from Danisco Sweeteners enables food companies to develop foods and beverages that are reduced-sugar, low-glycemic and low-calorie, with added fiber. When used as a sugar replacer, Litesse lowers the glycemic load and increases the fiber content of many foods while also improving flavor, texture and mouthfeel. Danisco Sweeteners, Donna Brooks, 800-255-6837, ext. 2521,,

Century Foods International specializes in contract manufacturing to meet a wide range of formulation requirements. Century Foods offers customer-specific formulas for its line of muscle-building protein and energy drinks, meal replacements, whey and dairy proteins, and agglomerated powders. The company offers large-scale blending, particle sizing, instantizing, agglomerating and fluid bed drying of nearly any food ingredient. Call to jump-start your next contract manufacturing project. Century Foods, Kevin Meyer, 608-269-1900,


Most studies show that sugar consumption is not well correlated with weight.