Sweet and light

15/10/2014 - 16:51
As the debate about sugar ramps up, there is a raft of products that can satisfy Brits’ sweet tooth and be healthier as well. Sheila Eggleston reports on the trends

Growing concerns about the danger of too much sugar intake has recently come under the spotlight, with it being attributed to rising obesity levels and other health issues. These concerns have even raised the possibility of a sugar tax on products containing it.

In June, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition highlighted the problem of sugar overload and suggested that just 5% of consumers’ energy should be from sugar consumption, with sugary drinks in particular needing tougher regulation and reduced consumption.

Even though the tax is still hypothetical, the impact on manufacturers who are high users of sugar would be major.

Currently, there are alternatives to sugar such as the EU and US-approved plant extract stevia, which has led to the development of many products without using the commodity.

Stevia is a highly intense sweetener said to be 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose, but with none of the calories. It is produced from the leaves of the stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni plant, which are reported to be 10-15 times sweeter than table sugar.

A new report from analyst Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research (LFR) highlights the opportunity for such plant-based sweeteners. It says the value of stevia as an additive for use in food and beverage manufacture totalled $110m in 2013, and the researchers forecast this to grow to $275m by 2017.

They say that in contrast, aspartame is forecast to drop to £210m by 2017 as stevia and blends of stevia and other sweeteners such as acesulfame K, begin to take a greater share of the market.
“The gradual demise of sugar, yet desire for sweetened food and drink products, suggests good opportunities for intense sweeteners,” says Laura Jones, food science analyst at Mintel. “They offer a source of sweetness without the calorie contribution of sugar, an increasingly attractive proposition to consumers struggling to manage their weight. Signs that the global market for intense sweeteners has reacted to this increased demand for ‘healthier’ sweetener solutions is already evident.”

The research shows that the sucralose sector is now the largest sector in the global intense sweeteners market in value terms, having overtaken aspartame and showing more potential for growth with its positioning as the most ‘sugar-like’ of the artificial sweeteners.

Natvia, made from the tips of the stevia plant, is one of the new sweeteners aiming to bridge the gap as a sugar replacement. The brand is Australia’s biggest selling natural sweetener and Natvia claims it is used for coffee in 38,000 cafés in the UK.

The company says it has the same sweetness as sugar, with zero calories per serve compared to 16 calories in a teaspoon of sugar, and can be used in hot and cold beverages, and for cooking and baking. Last year, the company teamed with London’s Primrose Bakery to launch a sugar-free cake.
Hot beverages and desserts enhanced by syrups are another key part of the café scene, with operators getting the benefit of help and advice from suppliers to get the best out of them.

John Taylerson founded Wiltshire-based Malmesbury Syrups in 2007 and supplies coffee shops, high street retailers and specialist delis with flavoured syrups made from its own recipes.
He says that industry research suggests that an average coffee shop customer is worth about £3.20, and a quick way to increase that to around £4 is to promote more valuable drinks.

“Flavoured syrups are the easy way to theme and add value,” he says. “A one litre bottle of syrup should generate about £30 in additional revenue. One way is to offer a range of flavoured shots to existing drinks. Flavours like cinnamon encourage new consumers with their seasonal aroma in a coffee shop.

“Another way is to develop signature drinks that exploit the more novel flavours as well as having seasonal offerings. Hot or cold, these add theatre, value and revenue to your business.”

All year round flavours include vanilla, caramel, gingerbread, amaretto, hazelnut, chai, toffee and a range of chocolate flavour, while seasonal favourites include Christmas cake, eggnog, crème brûlée, cinnamon, cherry in coffee or in chocolate to produce a Black Forest gateaux flavoured drink or mulling syrup for mixing with apple juice or fruit smoothies to make a hot or cold mulled drinks.
The company offers a special starter kit, which consists of any 6 x 1 litre flavours with a set of dosing pumps that dispense 10ml/shot, and thread into the neck of its plastic PET bottles that look like glass.

DaVinci Gourmet uses its Liquid Assets Calendar to advise outlets on what to serve throughout the year. In the run-up to autumn, for example, it says nutty, sweet and spicy flavours prove to be popular choices.

“By using our Liquid Asset Calendar, operators can showcase new and enticing menus, while also reflecting seasonal tastes,” explains brand manager Steph Goldie. “For example, warming options like a raspberry chai or an orange ginger hot chocolate are perfect for bringing in the crowds.”

With events like Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night falling in autumn, operators can also use this as an opportunity to offer themed drinks that coincide with these dates, she adds, such as a toffee apple frappe as a spooky choice, while spiced peach can be a refreshing choice after a bonfire. “These can then be renamed and offered as a ‘special,’ allowing outlets to charge a premium,” she says.

Recently the company reformulated its range of beverage syrups and now claims to be the largest brand free from artificial colours and flavours. It says this helps baristas meet demand across their speciality beverages offer by serving a product that consumers are increasingly seeing of equal importance as “fresh” or being “made with quality ingredients”.

In Datamonitor research, 57% of global consumers said natural ingredients have a high or very high influence on their choice of drink, and in hot beverages particularly, 50% of consumers were prepared to trade up to a more natural, premium market segment.

“With our global flavour expertise we are best placed to understand the needs of the coffee industry and have created a range of natural products to meet the evolving demands of our customers based on our understanding of the market trends across foodservice,” says Goldie.

Bennett Opie, which produces the syrup brand Monin, has also recently launched natural seasonal fruit flavours for 2014 – white peach, wild strawberry and morello cherry.

James Coston, Monin UK brand ambassador, says the white peach syrup pairs well with exotic fruit flavours such as lychee and passion fruit, but also works with traditional flavours like pear, apricot or plum, while the wild strawberry works with sparkling wine and mocktails.

“Morello cherry syrup has a multitude of applications,” he says. Examples included using it as a base for a cherry mint julep or mixed with lemonade to make cherryade.”

A maple-flavoured syrup is the latest addition to Macphie of Glenbervie’s OTT range. “With growth in added-value breakfast products with an American theme, OTT maple flavoured syrup provides the perfect accompaniment for pancakes, waffles or as a dipping sauce for churros,” explains category marketing manager Gillian Williamson.

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