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Reducing Sugar Content in Fruit-flavoured Drinks

Obesity is becoming an increasing issue with more than 2.2 billion people being obese or overweight in the world, according to the United Nations. Sugar remains one of the key elements that lead to the rising obesity levels. The art of figuring out how to reduce sugar content, while keeping the flavour profile and feel that consumers want are thus becoming top-of-mind at beverage companies. The global consumers are also more aware of ingredient labels and desires “better-for-you” beverage options – but without sacrificing the great taste and texture they know and love.

The Complex Challenge of Reducing Sugar

Sugar is not just a sweetener. It plays an important role in formulation, enhancing flavour and adding functionality. Sugar also contributes to appearance, texture and shelf life and provides body and brings out the fruit taste in beverages. This makes replacing and removing sugar a technical challenge.

Compensating for the sweetness of sugar in recipes could include either diluting the concentration of juice with water, incorporating high intensity sweeteners, or using alternate flavourings. Replacing loss of texture might require different modification techniques. It’s not a matter of a simple substitution as all the drink’s sensory properties will be altered.

Figuring out how to reduce sugar content while keeping the flavour profile that consumers want, are becoming top-of-mind at beverage companies

Finding the Innovative Solutions

C.P. Kelco, a global nature-based ingredient solutions company with operations in Denmark, conducted a sensory property analysis. They looked at 37 attributes, including texture (mouthfeel), aroma, flavour and aftertaste. Their findings showed that perceived thickness or body in a beverage can come from two different physical characteristics: increased viscosity and density. Each has a unique impact – and both are needed to get the proper match.

A key solution is pectin, a nature-based ingredient derived from sustainably sourced citrus peels. It boosts density, resulting in a richer mouth sensation while leaving the viscosity relatively unchanged. This allows a reduced-sugar, fruit-flavoured beverage to come closer to matching its full-sugar counterpart with a pleasant flavour release. Leveraging this nature-based ingredient can help formulators meet sensory expectations while delivering the low-sugar and clean label requirements that consumers want.