Clean label sugar reduction

Charlotte Holmes, Food Development Scientist

Current and impending PHE targets, the sugar levy, demands from consumers and social responsibility means there is a huge pressure for the food industry to continue carrying out wide ranging reformulation. This presents a major technical challenge to the food industry.

In this video, Charlotte Holmes, discuses the technical, regulatory and consumer challenges to replacing sugar in products. She also discusses a new member funded research project on clean label sugar reduction.

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There's two key drivers of sugar reduction. Firstly, the governmental pressures - in 2016 the government set out a plan to tackle childhood obesity called ‘Childhood obesity: a plan for action’. As part of this strategy they wanted to tackle sugar in children's diets, looking to reduce the amount of sugars and children consume by 20% by 2020. They also introduced the soft drinks levy as part of the budget in 2016, aimed at drinks with added sugar. As well as the governmental pressures there are also consumer pressures as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the health impacts that sugar has, so they're looking for new alternatives from the industry. This creates lots of great opportunities.

There's several challenges around reducing the sugar content of food and drink, but three of the key ones are the technical challenges the regulatory constraints and consumer perceptions.

In terms of the technical challenges, sugar plays a key role in many food and drink. For example, bulking, providing sweetness or influencing the texture or volume of a product.

From a regulatory point of view a lot of the replacers and their use is regulated through the additives regulation. There's a lot of restrictions that this creates in terms of their use. Whether this is usage level in the product category, specific restrictions in certain products, or we have to achieve a certain level of reduction before we can even introduce the replacers.

From a consumer’s perspective there are a lot of challenges around lack of trust as there's a lot of unknown ingredients or chemical sounding names and there are some negative on pack warnings that we sometimes have to use. This creates a real demand from the industry for clean label solutions that can support the sugar reduction process.

We're seeing a significant increase in the number of members coming to us looking for support in terms of delivering successful sugar reduction. As part of this we've decided to start a new member funded research program on clean label sugar reduction. The project aims to explore and review different clean label and processing solutions that are currently available and understand the role that portion size can have in helping consumers reduce their sugar intake.

As part of the project we’re really keen to engage with members and get their input throughout the project so any feedback is always welcome.

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