Dairy Foods talked to:

Fransiska Anderson, product development manager, SunOpta Grains and Foods Group
Andrea Belford, food applications manager, Corn Products U.S.
Ihab Bishay, director-business development and application innovation, Ajinomoto Food Ingredients LLC
Darrell Gerdes, manager-new product development, Imperial Sugar Co.
Jason Hecker, group marketing director, PureCircle USA Inc.
Angelica Horst, dairy industry manager, Danisco USA Inc.
Brent Laffey, product manager, Premium Ingredients
Michael Loera, technical marketing/founder, MHT
Joseph O’Neill, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Beneo-Orafti
Shanyn Seiler, senior scientist, Wild Flavors
William Shazer, director of research and development, Tate & Lyle Custom Ingredients
Young-Soo Song, food applications associate project coordinator, Roquette America Inc.
Colleen Zammer, market development manager-health and nutrition, Jungbunzlauer Inc.

This month’s Wellness Watch on page 60 reviews the recent statement and subsequent report by the Dallas-based American Heart Association urging Americans to slash their added sugar intake in order to decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease. Because our sweet tooth is not going away, dairy foods formulators are encouraged to evaluate the use of alternative sweeteners, either in conjunction with sugar or for total replacement. This will help Americans better meet the following goals set forth by AHA: Most women should consume no more than 100 calories (about 25 grams) of added sugars per day and most men should consume no more than 150 calories (about 37.5 grams) each day.

Dairy Foods talked with 13 suppliers of sweeteners to get their perspective on the industry. Here’s what they had to say.

Dairy Foods: Formulators are overwhelmed by the plethora of sweetening ingredients in today’s marketplace. Besides functioning as a sweetener, what other qualities should a formulator look for when choosing a sweetener or blend of sweetening ingredients?

O’Neill: Formulators should consider whether a sweetener provides any nutritional, health-related benefits or technological benefits. Technological benefits range from solubility, availability in a liquid or powder format, mouthfeel improvement and flavor enhancement, whereas nutritional benefits may include caloric content, glycemic index, fiber content or claims such as sustained energy release.

Gerdes: Sweeteners provide texture and mouthfeel, as well as balance water activity. Other factors to consider include label declaration, pricing, marketing claims and calorie content. Some sweeteners offer the advantage of consumer friendliness and lack the controversies associated with other sweeteners.

Hecker: Formulators should look for two things: consumer appeal and formulation feasibility. Our proprietary consumer research shows that consumers want, above all else, all-natural solutions that help reduce calories. Not all natural sweeteners are commercially viable, either due to limitations in supply, versatility in use across applications or their inability to help address calorie-reduction objectives. 

Bishay: Taste is always the primary consideration, but formulators also need to consider the cost of the sweetener as used in the formulation, the caloric contribution of the sweetener, potential side effects, if there are any regulatory limits on use level or applications, and how well the sweetener profile works with the flavors in the formulation.

Seiler: It is important to know what you are trying to achieve upfront. Are you reducing calories and by how much or are you taking the no-sugar-added approach? By defining the calories, price parameters and label declaration, this will allow you to narrow down your choices. A bulk sweetener will be needed if you are removing a significant amount of calories or replacing most or all of the sugar. Once an alternative sweetener is identified the developer will need to add taste modifiers to clean up and balance the profile.  

Belford: Depending on what sweetener is used, the freezing point can be altered in frozen desserts causing a change in texture and meltdown characteristics. Sweeteners can provide bulk in formulations where a reduction in fat is desired.

Anderson: Formulators should make sure they do not forget to evaluate a sweetener’s interaction with other ingredients, this includes both positive and negative effects, such as the need to mask other flavors or enhance the total flavor experience.

Laffey: Using high-intensity sweeteners instead of sugar is what many formulators are currently looking at, and in most cases they are able to reduce the calorie content of the finished product as well as production costs.

Zammer: Sweeteners play a variety of roles in product formulation, as well as in the decision-to-purchase process by consumers. Choosing the right one or combination usually starts with identifying consumer needs and backing into the formulation options. Because dairy products are inherently healthy, many consumers do scrutinize the labels. They look at health benefits or health non-negatives, flavor and variety, ingredient sources, unit price and availability. Health considerations may include calorie content and other weight management benefits; bone health benefits beyond calcium; and digestive health benefits beyond cultures, i.e., if the sweetener doubles as a prebiotic. Many consumers are leaning away from artificial ingredients and are seeking natural alternatives to provide reduced calories and great taste. Therefore “all natural” on the label does provide a means of differentiation for some consumers.

Shazer: Tate & Lyle’s custom market research reveals that 65% of consumers are thinking more about eating healthier than they did two years ago and 55% are reading labels to determine the products that make the cut. To appeal to consumers becoming more health-conscious, it’s important for formulators to consider four things: consumer trends, taste, manufacturer focus and securing the right health and wellness partner. It is critical that a supplier understand a manufacturer’s challenges and concerns, as well as their customers. Formulators should look for a supplier that works with them to determine the most efficient and effective approach for saving money without compromising taste, texture and processing.

Dairy Foods: What sweetening ingredients does your company sell?

Bishay: Ajinomoto sells aspartame, the world’s most successful high-potency sweetener. Since its introduction more than 25 years ago, it has revolutionized the industry due to its clean, sweet taste that is closer to the taste of sugar than any other high-potency sweetener. Furthermore, aspartame is the only high-potency sweetener naturally metabolized by the body, as it is made up of components already naturally occurring in common foods. Aspartame’s taste profile enables it to be used as a sole sweetener in most applications. It also blends very well with other sweeteners, including acesulfame potassium, where it has significant synergy, as well as sugar and many other sweeteners. Ajinomoto is also developing a new high-potency sweetener called advantame, which is made from aspartame and vanillin, a component of vanilla. Advantame has a clean, sugar-like taste, and is ideal for blending with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, as well as with other high-potency sweeteners. It is currently being reviewed by FDA.

Shazer: Tate & Lyle manufactures sucralose and crystalline fructose. A zero-calorie, non-nutritive sweetener, sucralose is 600 times sweetener than sucrose and is compatible with nutritive sweeteners. It can be used to replace up to 30% of sugar in a formulation with no detectable difference in taste. It also can be used in no-sugar-added, sugar-free and reduced-sugar dairy applications. Crystalline fructose is 17% sweeter than sucrose, which means it requires less to achieve the same level of sweetness. It can be used in conjunction with a non-nutritive sweetener, such as sucralose, as well as nutritive sweeteners.

Zammer: Jungbunzlauer manufactures the all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener erythritol. Erythritol is a four-carbon sugar alcohol that is manufactured by fermentation of a natural carbohydrate source - corn. It is not genetically or chemically modified or extracted and naturally exists in many food products. Erythritol is less sweet than table sugar (about 60%) but has a bulk density similar to sugar in crystalline or powder form. Because of the lower sweetness level, it pairs well with other natural sweeteners such as fructose or stevia-based sweeteners to deliver a well-rounded flavor profile with sugar mouthfeel and functionality. It shows synergy with stevia-based sweeteners in that a combination delivers a higher sweetness level than expected by the sweetness equivalency of the individual sweeteners, which allows for a lower use rate and overall cost savings. It also has flavor-masking properties, which helps to round out off flavors and lingering aftertastes. Because of its chemical structure, erythritol is not fully metabolized, resulting in negligible caloric contribution and glycemic response. It also has the lowest laxation effects of any sugar alcohol. It is approved for use in dairy products at up to 10% of the formulation.

Song: Roquette offers an advanced line of bulk sweeteners, including crystalline maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol and maltitol syrups. They are ideal ingredients for healthier frozen dairy desserts and do not compromise on taste or texture. Maltitol is the polyol that most closely mimics the freezing depression point and sweetness characteristics of sucrose. Maltitol can be used as a direct one-to-one replacement for sucrose in better for you no-sugar-added ice creams. Maltitol syrups function much like sucrose/corn syrup blends.

Hecker: PureCircle has two main ingredients for use in food and beverages. The first is rebaudioside-A (reb-A), which is up to 400 times sweeter than sugar with a very similar taste to sugar. It is considered 100% natural, contributes no calories to a finished product and has a low-glycemic index, making it safe for diabetics. The other ingredient is a crystallized blend of pure cane sugar and reb-A. Because it is crystallized, it has an excellent taste profile with fewer calories.

Seiler: Wild offers a range of self-affirmed GRAS stevia-based sweeteners including reb-A 98%, reb-A 95%, reb-A 80% and reb-A 60%, all of which meet the 95% steviol glycoside purity level. We also offer a range of taste modifiers that can conveniently be blended with our stevia extracts. These taste modifiers can be customized to balance and improve overall sweetness profile and other flavor characteristics affected by sugar reduction/removal. 

Gerdes: Imperial Sugar manufactures and sells a large range of natural sweetening agents. Our portfolio includes granulated sugar; liquid sugar; light, medium and dark brown sugar; 6X, 10X and 12X powdered sugar; molasses; and crystallized sugar blends. Our crystallized sugar blends are unique items that can provide sweetness as well as a flavor note such as honey or maple.

Anderson: SunOpta supplies corn syrup solids made using a natural enzymatic process. The ingredient is sulfite free, unlike common commercial products that are processed through the use of chemical solvents and sulfites.

Belford: Corn Products sells a variety of corn-based sweeteners, including corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high-fructose corn syrup and dextrose, as well as maltitol syrups, which have been balanced on a molecular weight basis to replace sucrose/corn syrup in specific dairy products with respect to viscosity, sweetness and freezing point depression. We even have syrups that can be blended with high-intensity sweeteners to overcome sweetness imbalances. We also offer polyol syrups and solids, and reb-A.

O’Neill: One of the sweetening ingredients marketed and sold by Beneo-Group is isomaltulose, a disaccharide produced from beet sugar. It is a fully digestible carbohydrate that is digested much more slowly than other sugars. Energy levels are sustained for longer periods of time since it is slowly metabolized by enzymes in the gut and gradually supplies energy to the body and the brain in the form of glucose, thus enhancing both physical and mental performance. In addition, isomaltulose is low glycemic and kind to teeth. It can replace sucrose on a one-to-one ratio, while providing a milder but natural sweetness (approximately 60%). Isomaltulose works well with all other sweetening ingredients, and since it is resistant to microbial fermentation, it may be applied in yogurt and fermented dairy beverages. We also sell oligofructose in liquid and powder form. Sweetening levels range from 35% to 50% that of sugar. Its taste is very clean, without any lingering effect, and it also enhances fruit and berry flavors. When combined with aspartame and acesulfame potassium, the mixture shows improved sustained flavor with reduced aftertaste. Oligofructose has been known to mask the licorice off-note associated with sucralose in dairy applications and produce a better-balanced round flavor. Oligofructose contains only 1.5 calories per gram.

Horst: Danisco has a range of sweeteners for dairy applications. For ice cream, Danisco’s xylitol, a monosaccharide polyol, has a similar relative sweetness to sucrose and imparts a clean flavor with no discernable after taste. Due to its lower molecular weight, xylitol has a higher relative freezing point depression factor than sucrose and produces a softer texture. Lactitol, a disaccharide polyol derived from milk, has a similar freezing point depression factor to sucrose due to its similar molecular weight. If lactitol is used as a direct substitute in low- or reduced-sugar ice cream, the resulting texture will be similar to that with sucrose. In addition, lactitol in ice cream can increase the milky flavor. Xylitol has 2.4 calories per gram, while lactitol contains only 2 calories per gram.

Loera: MHT markets fruit purees, which can naturally sweeten dairy foods, at the same time they provide flavor, nutrition and slight viscosity enhancement.

Dairy Foods: Why should a dairy foods formulator consider using your company’s sweetener(s)?

Shazer: Recent research points to consumers’ willingness to make a greater investment in healthier products for themselves and their families. Formulators can reduce calories and production costs by using sweeteners such as sucralose and crystalline fructose, which can translate into lower-priced products for consumers. We customize ingredient systems to help dairy formulators produce new and cost-effective products using their standard processing equipment. This is based on our knowledge of ingredient functionalities, dairy product manufacturing and the effects of processing on the various ingredient components in the product.

Loera: If a formulator is interested in addressing cost and natural labeling, as well as wants to help prevent diabetes-type ailments that are caused by consumption of certain sweeteners, then going back to nature’s recipes and nature’s ingredients - fruit - is the way.

Hecker: Our sweeteners provide dairy foods formulators with all-natural, great-tasting and versatile ingredients, which is in line with what consumers want. As a result, formulators and consumers no longer need to choose between natural but high in calories, or zero-calories but artificial. Our sweeteners are already supported by trusted brands that stand for the highest quality standards in the industry.

Bishay: Aspartame has none of the off flavors or lingering aftertastes found in many other high-potency sweeteners. Aspartame’s taste profile works very well within the dairy matrix and with flavors commonly used in dairy applications. Furthermore, aspartame is a very cost-effective sweetener, does not contribute any calories and is non-cariogenic. It can be used to develop good-tasting, sugar-free or no-sugar-added products or for partial sugar replacement to reduce cost and calories. The same is true of advantame. Furthermore, we do not expect that products containing advantame will be required to carry a phenylketonuria information statement.

Zammer: From a labeling perspective, erythritol can deliver on all-natural and low-calorie claims, which fit well with other benefits that dairy delivers and dairy consumers seek. It is soluble at the allowed levels and provides a smooth mouthfeel with the body of sugar. It pairs well with other sweeteners and has a well rounded flavor profile. 

Anderson: Our corn syrup solids are available non-GMO and certified organic, which allows for positive label claims.

Gerdes: With the most modern state-of-the-art U.S. sugar refinery, we offer a variety of all-natural products that are made to meet a customer’s specifications. Our company is committed to partnering with customers to develop innovative solutions to their unique challenges.

Horst: We have extensive experience working with customers to achieve formulations with optimal nutritional profiles, health claims and taste and texture attributes. We have experience reducing sugar levels without including high-intensity sweeteners.   

Dairy Foods: Are there processing and packaging conditions that must be considered when changing sweeteners?

Horst: When using alternative sweetening ingredients there will be a variety of differences in solubility, hygroscopicity, viscosity, etc. Therefore processing conditions will have to be adjusted accordingly. Packaging conditions should also be considered.  For example, some sweeteners attract moisture more than others and as a result, appropriate moisture barriers must be provided. In dairy applications the most significant issues will likely be solubility and freezing point depression.

Song: Redesigning the stabilizer system is not required with the use of polyols.

Zammer: While soluble, erythritol takes a little time to dissolve, so this is a processing consideration that should be kept in mind. It has a negative heat of solution, which means that it draws energy from the system and has a cooling effect, but once dissolved this cooling effect is not perceivable. In frozen desserts, it delivers very firm products and therefore is best paired with other bulk sweeteners and/or gums to allow for a softer texture and slow melt.

Hecker: Our reb-A products are highly soluble and stable over shelf life and across a very broad range of pH levels and temperature conditions.

Belford: Corn syrups will have a different viscosity than liquid sucrose, so pumps may have to be altered to accommodate these sweeteners. Also, because of the change in freezing points of finished frozen desserts with different sweeteners, hardening times may change. Stevia-based sweeteners will need a bulking agent to replace sucrose and corn syrup when reformulating. For sugar-free formulas, blending stevia-based sweeteners and polyols may provide appropriate sweetness and bulk in the formula.

O’Neill: There are no special processing or packaging conditions required for isomaltulose in dairy applications. Powdered oligofructose is a humectant and should be kept and stored in a dry condition to prevent moisture pickup.

Bishay: Aspartame has only minimal loss during high-heat processing. For example, in a UHT process, only 0.5% to 1.5% is lost, and less than 1% is lost in HTST. Aspartame should not be used in products requiring retort processing, or neutral/high pH products that are not refrigerated; however, refrigerated products such as chocolate milk can be formulated with aspartame and still have the normal shelf life of their sugar-sweetened counterparts. Advantame is more stable to heat than aspartame, allowing it to be used in many processes involving prolonged heating.

Dairy Foods: What does the future hold for the category of sweetening ingredients?

Gerdes: Global supplies and pricing of sugar will have a major impact on trends. Consumer demands for “natural” and “healthy” sweeteners will provide R&D personnel with opportunities to develop new and unique items. Retailers will feel increasing pressure from consumers to provide products that contain sweeteners that they feel are healthier for themselves and their families. There will be growth in natural high-intensity sweeteners such as those based on stevia and luo han guo. Manufacturers will see growth from the creation of unique sugar-natural sweetener blends that provide calorie reduction while retaining the functionality of sugar.

Hecker: The food and beverage market is clearly headed in the direction of natural and healthier options and sweeteners play an instrumental role in this shift. Alarming health trends regarding obesity and diabetes are the focus of consumers, government, consumer interest groups and manufacturers. Michele Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and FDA are helping to lay the groundwork for front-of-package nutrition labels and Obama’s efforts are specifically targeting kids and their food and beverage options in schools. As a result, manufacturers are actively looking for natural ways to cut calories as evidenced by the number of recent product launches with all-natural claims.

O’Neill: With consumers increasingly looking for added benefits in their dairy products, it would stand to reason that the future looks very promising for sweetening ingredients that offer more benefits than just sweetness. Market studies show that the leading food trends include categories such as natural ingredients, digestive health, weight management and energy, all of which can be addressed in part by sweetening ingredient solutions. Formulators will look beyond sweetness profiles alone to ingredients with nutritional and technological functionality when making their ingredient selections.

Anderson: The use of more natural and organic sweeteners will grow as the desire for more consumer-friendly labeling increases. Consumers are becoming more aware of what is being put into products, as can be seen with the recent unpopularity of high-fructose corn syrup, leading to many companies pulling it out of products and looking for other alternatives, such as corn syrup solids.

Laffey: As we see the price come down on many high-intensity sweeteners and consumer back lash increasing against certain sugars, many food companies will reformulate products.

Zammer: The future for sweetening ingredients is bright! Consumers will continue to seek new and innovative options, which will keep the product pipeline full for ingredient manufacturers and suppliers. There is still no “silver bullet” sweetener that delivers on every formulator’s desire or consumer need, therefore discovery will continue for a sweetener that will. With recommendations by many top-ranking health agencies for consumers to reduce sugar in their diet, there will be shifts in sweetener use and consumption, but our global sweet tooth is not likely to be diminished and therefore will need to be satiated with creative new products that keep health, functionality and flavor top of mind.  

Sidebar: FDA Clarifies Labeling Rules for High-Fructose Corn Syrup

FDA clarified in January the labeling rules for high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). According to a letter from FDA’s Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements, the presence of HFCS may be declared by use of the term “corn syrup,” because HFCS is a sub-category of corn syrup. Although HFCS could alternatively be labeled “glucose syrup,” FDA believes that corn syrup is the more appropriate labeling term.