By Rudy Wouters, Vice President, Beneo Technology Center
With ‘fiber-enriched’ and ‘sugar-reduced’ the buzzwords of 2014, it is no wonder that products combining the two are proving popular with end users.
Following recent consumer research we have undertaken with 1,000 respondents (see footnote, below), it became clear that a large number of U.S. consumers (63%) try to limit sugar in their daily diets. In addition, the study showed that although fat and sugar reduction still remain the key considerations for consumers, fiber is now seen as more important than calorie counting and salt reduction; 73% of the 1,000 respondents thought it was important to eat enough fiber, compared to 44% that felt that calorie reduction was important.
The results clearly show the increasingly high importance that U.S. consumers are placing on high fiber consumption and sugar reduction within their diets. With the belief that consumers’ interest in fiber enrichment and sugar reduction will continue to grow, recipes that promote these nutritional benefits look set to become ever more popular in dairy and nondairy products alike.
Naturally derived dietary fibers, such as inulin and oligofructose (which also act as sugar and fat replacers) allow manufacturers to make the most of this fiber-enriched, reduced sugar trend in both dairy and nondairy products. In addition, the combination of naturally derived oligofructose and stevia allows for fiber-enriched and sugar-reduced or no sugar added solutions in dairy products, resulting in a significant improvement of sensorial properties. These include improved body and mouthfeel and the reduction of ‘off-notes’ that are among the unpleasant side effects of stevia usage.
The ‘on trend’ combination of stevia and oligofructose
Sweetening solutions using both oligofructose and stevia in dairy products perfectly tick six of the twelve main trends listed in consultant Julian Mellentin’s New Nutrition Business’ “12 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2014”:
- naturally functional
- dairy 2.0
- weight wellness
- the snackification of everything
- sugar (the demonization of sugar)
- permission to indulge
As the only high intensity sweetener derived from a natural source, stevia is proving popular in the creation of ‘natural’ products. In addition, the dairy category enjoys a strong “naturally healthy” image in consumers’ minds. It therefore has become a credible category for health and positive nutrition messages. With prebiotics such as inulin and oligofructose proving their beneficial effect on gut flora, digestive health is proving popular as is the strong link between digestive health and weight management (satiety).
Popularity increase for stevia in dairy
Innova Market Insights monitoring over the last few years has shown that the number of new product launches with stevia in the US has grown from 15 in 2011 to 62 dairy product launches in 2013. Across all categories launches have grown from 411 in 2011 to 933 in 2013.
It is hardly surprising that the rise of stevia has been so swift, as it has proven to be an increasingly popular choice with the drive toward natural sweeteners among both dairy and nondairy manufacturers alike. Within four years, stevia, a plant used traditionally by Paraguay's Guarani Indians, can now be found in sugar-reduced products by food giants such as Coca-Cola, Dannon, Arla and Valio. Although up to 300 times sweeter than traditional beet or cane sugar and heralded as the "miracle sweetener," it does require careful management due to its slightly bitter, liquorice-like aftertaste.
By combining stevia with functional ingredients that offer nutritional benefits while acting as carrier, dairy producers have a wide range of new recipe options available. Solutions with the prebiotic fiber oligofructose offers a balanced sweetness profile and round flavor, while bringing the other nutritional benefits of the ingredient to the end product.
Oligofructose is a prebiotic fiber with a sweetness profile that does not have any off-taste or lingering effect. This is why it is used to enhance the fiber content of products, as well as helping to reduce their sugar content (1.5 kcal/g). It is naturally derived from chicory root and helps to mask the undesired off-taste that high intense sweeteners such as stevia may have. As well as enhancing fruit flavors, this highly soluble fiber encourages a smooth formulation and as one of the most researched prebiotics worldwide, promotes a beneficial effect on gut flora. In addition it can generally be processed on all standard production lines without any major adaption required.
Putting oligofructose and stevia to the taste test
Sensorial tests have proven that when stevia is combined with oligofructose in both dairy and nondairy products, a sugar-like taste is created, that has none of the ‘off-taste’ that stevia is known for. A case in point is sugar-reduced fruit yogurt. When oligofructose and stevia are combined, the end result is similar to the control sample in terms of flavor, acid aftertaste, sweetness and body, additionally there is no discernible difference between the two in terms of roundness, fluidity, thickness or dairy flavor.
Formulation with oligofructose and stevia
The blend of oligofructose and stevia is added at the fruit preparation stage of dairy formulations. Oligofructose is added as a liquid and stevia as a powder. This fruit preparation is then mixed into the plain dairy mass. The positive effect of oligofructose on roundness and mouthfeel starts from dosages of at least 1.5% in the final product and leads to a significant sensorial effect. Higher dosages enhance that beneficial effect and additionally, fiber claims can be made. From the point of view of processing technology, the combination of stevia and oligofructose is straightforward: no processing adaptations are needed.
Once added to a dairy formulation, possible claims for the product include:
- A fiber claim: for “source of fiber” at least 10% of the recommended Daily Value (2.5 g fiber serving/ RACC), for “high fiber” at least 20% of the recommended Daily Value (5 g fiber per serving/RACC) (RACC = Reference Amount Customarily Consumed)
- A sugar-reduced claim
- No sugar added claim – experts are available to advise on recipe formulation to achieve this claim
Consumers and manufacturers expect similar taste, functionality and bulk from a healthy alternative, just as they are used to experiencing with sugar. Thanks to the product development work already done, this is now possible. Following the creation of the optimum sweetening profile when combining oligofructose with stevia, a range of nutritional, taste and health benefits can now successfully be achieved in a wide range of dairy products.
|No added sugar formulation|
|Composition||Test recipe (%)|
|Skim milk powder||2.9|
|Cream 35% fat||2.5|
|Fruit prep formulation|
|Water up to 100|
Source: Beneo conducted consumer research in the US on the perception of fiber and its benefits, with a representative sample of 1,000 consumers. The survey was conducted in July 2013 by Health Focus International, an external consumer research agency based in the US.