Reducing sugar levels in everything from carbonated soft drinks and seltzers through to dairy shakes has never been a higher priority for beverage brands and their suppliers across the globe. We explore what this means for those innovating and reformulating in this space, addressing the top technical sugar reduction challenges faced by our customers.
Impact on taste perception
We are, as humans, hard-wired to love sugar. Consuming sugar activates the mesolimbic dopamine system, which is the brain’s reward system. Taking it away has a profound impact on how enjoyable a beverage is perceived to be.
Removing the sugar from a beverage changes the relative percentages of all the other ingredients and can disrupt the balance of the overall beverage profile. This is particularly true when looking at the sugar-acidity relationship.
Reduced or diminished mouthfeel
The presence of sugar in a beverage does so much more than just bring sweetness. Sugar importantly adds to the viscosity of a beverage. That syrupy characteristic that high sugar beverages have is commonly referred to as mouthfeel. Simply taking the sugar away can leave a beverage feeling very thin and watery. While high-intensity sweeteners (HIS) can add back some sweetness perception, they do not bring anything to the mouthfeel of the finished beverage due to their minimal impact on viscosity.
Lower flavour impact
Sugar plays an important role in the brightness of a flavour delivery system. Taking it away can result in a flatter overall experience. This can vary dramatically depending on the beverage application, making successful sugar reduction an incredibly nuanced exercise.
While consumers are increasingly seeking better for you, low sugar, drinking experiences, they must still taste great – as mentioned above. HIS are a popular tool to bring back that initial perception of sweetness, however they have a different temporal sweetness profile compared to sugar. HIS can also impart negative characteristics like mouth drying, astringency or unbalanced acidity and hen used in isolation, they simply don’t taste enough like the real deal.
Maintaining a clean label
In addition to the technical challenges reducing sugar brings, it’s also increasingly important for those formulating in this space to maintain a simple, easy to understand, ingredient deck on pack. Naturalness is high on the consumers’ priority list as they continue to shun artificial ingredients.
How Treatt overcome sugar reduction challenges
We have supported the world’s biggest beverage manufacturers and flavour and fragrance houses with their sugar reduction needs for nearly 30 years.
Our carefully curated Health & Wellness portfolio of 100% natural extracts and flavours is created using proprietary technology that collects the volatiles from a range of sugars and other sweet food stuffs. This allows our products to impart an authentic sugar flavour and sweet aroma to the beverage, without adding sucrose or fructose. The perception of sweetness is restored and brings balance to the taste profile, without the addition of a single calorie.
The products in our range also enhance the perception of a beverage’s viscosity, building back the mouthfeel that’s lost when sugar is removed. Our range which includes our Sugar Treattarome® and TreattSweet™ products, has grown over time to include a spectrum of tonalities, each specifically suited to the flavour profile and application of our customers’ beverage. From more neutral sugar profiles that work well in flavoured waters and lemonade, to fruitier ones that work best in juices and sodas, to caramellic and brown notes best suited to cola and ginger beer, we have a solution built with an application in mind.
Extensive trials have also shown that our products are highly effective in reducing the sweetness linger or the bitter aftertastes experiences with HIS; and directly improve sensations of mouth drying and astringency. We’ve also had success in reducing the alcohol burn in low sugar alcoholic applications.
By addressing these challenges, our products have a proven impact on improving the overall enjoyment of a beverage. And, due to their 100% natural status, they can be labelled as a natural sugar extract or flavouring (depending on local regulatory legislation), therefore maintaining that clean label.