Reducing sugar and how we taste sweetness

shutterstock 1564608898

Consumers increasingly want reassurance that sweetness is derived from natural ingredients without losing the dopamine release associated with sugar. We explore how the beverage market needs to address sugar reduction concerns whilst delivering on taste and flavour.

Consumers desire for sweetness

As a global society, we are increasingly concerned about our health and wellbeing - arguably the greatest drinks industry driver. It touches every beverage category in one way or another, and from vitamin-infused sparkling water to ginger lemonade, health-conscious consumers are drawn to products that support their lifestyle.

56% of Gen Z said that ‘natural’ is an essential/nice to have when selecting a beverage. The ‘no added sugar’ positioning is valued and increasingly embraced by manufacturers as one of the most prominent on-pack claims across beverage categories, with 64% of consumers influenced by how a product impacts health and wellbeing when making a purchase.

Artificial sweeteners in the news

As intensity grows around aspartame, positioned as a healthy sweetener alternative to sugar but with increasing concern that it may be carcinogenic to humans, many beverage brands face the negative connotations surrounding artificial sweeteners that could see consumers become wary and abandon popular products.

Legislative changes being introduced worldwide are forcing beverage manufacturers to reduce sugar and calorie levels and reformulate recipes. Around 50 countries globally have implemented taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, and demand for healthier beverages shows no signs of letting up. According to the World Health Organisation, at least 85 countries currently implement some type of SBB (Sugar Sweetened Beverages) taxation – designed to reduce the purchase and, therefore the consumption of drinks with added sugar.

To address the demand, beverage manufacturers may look to simply replace sugar with high-intensity sweeteners. The challenge is that although these ingredients are sweet, they don’t taste the same as real sugar – 58% of US consumers agree that the aftertaste from sweeteners is unappealing.

Sugar is not just the taste of sweetness – it also has an overall flavour.

Group cheers of sweet drinks

What is the difference between taste and flavour?

It is commonly known that we have a small set of five sensations our tongue can detect: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and unami, with increasing evidence we can also detect fat. We have a number of receptors on our taste buds which allow us to detect these sensations. Interestingly we only have two receptors for sweet, versus 25 for bitter sensations.

Flavour is a combination of taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami) and aroma – what we smell. The majority of flavour actually comes from aroma. Try pinching your nose before putting a flavoured sweet in your mouth; with your nose pinched it just tastes sweet, but when you release your nose, you’ll experience a rush of flavour – that’s the role that aroma plays in flavour.

Because of this overlap between smell and taste, any aromas which we associate with sweetness prompt a physiological response in our brains to make flavours taste sweeter.

Reducing sugar without compromising on taste

We have developed a range of natural sugar extracts and flavours which contain no sucrose. They can be used on their own or in conjunction with natural or synthetic high intensity sweeteners to provide products which can keep a sweet-tooth sated and satisfy health-conscious consumers with the experience of a great tasting beverage.

Get in touch with our specialists to discuss how our products can differentiate your project and experience the extensive benefits of our sugar reduction solutions through a tailored tasting session.

Global Data, Global Consumer Survey 2023
Kantar Profiles/Mintel, July 2022

Related articles:

Download out Natural Extracts 2023 report
TrendBite: How TikTok trends are driving beverage innovation
Top 5 Sugar Reduction Challenges