The Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is celebrated by many Chinese people around the world. At this time of the year, many consumers indulge in confectionery and snacks amidst the traditional celebrations and festivities. Many people also stock up on sweet treats to give out as gifts. In recent years, pastries, tarts as well as western style chocolates and sweets have also been growing in popularity.
Nevertheless, while they enjoy eating these tempting sweet treats, more and more consumers are increasingly conscious of their sugar intake. In fact, according to Euromonitor International, given a list of ingredients to specifically look for on food labels, 42 percent of consumers checked for “limited sugar” or “no added sugar”. The data also showed that Chinese consumers were most likely to check for sugar content, as compared to Japanese consumers.
In addition, we are seeing governments around the world increasingly discussing legislation to reduce high sugar content in processed food and drinks in order to slow down the growing prevalence of obesity and overweight.
With consumers across Asia in a constant struggle when it comes to weight management and the growing awareness of the importance of choosing healthier food, there are solutions how manufacturers can produce sweet treats with reduced-sugar labels that still convey the indulgent sensations as their full-sugar counterparts.
Less sugar, equally appealing
Reducing and replacing sugar in chocolates and confectionery is no easy task, especially when it comes to ensuring the same product quality – sensorial wise and technically. This is because sugar has a dual function. One function is to convey sweetness, the other, to add bulk; which is usually the technical difficulty that most manufacturers encounter.
However, some food manufacturers are now able to achieve this with the help of functional ingredients. By incorporating the prebiotic fibres inulin or oligofructose as well as the sugar replacer isomalt, they can reduce the sugar content while maintaining taste and texture.
BENEO’s isomalt is the number one sugar replacer in sugar-free hard candy worldwide. It has numerous nutritional and technical benefits. Being available in different variants, isomalt offers solutions that meet different requirements for sugar-free and sugar-reduced candy, gum, chocolate or baked goods best. It has a very similar organoleptical profile to sugar – but with only half the calories (2.4kcal/g), as well as being low glycaemic. As a bulk sweetener, isomalt allows for a 1:1 replacement of sugar in food products and with its low hygroscopicity, it helps to enhance the storage stability of various products such as candies, biscuits and cookies. The latter stay crisp for longer periods while candies don’t become sticky and thus do not need extra wrapping.
BENEO’s inulin and oligofructose are other options to reduce sugar in confectionary. They are soluble fibres naturally extracted from chicory root, with a mild sweet taste and sweetening power of up to 65 percent of sucrose. These characteristics make them a well-known choice for manufacturers to cut sugar while maintaining taste and texture. Having only 2 kcal/g, inulin and oligofructose help to reduce the calorie count of final products. They can also be used in combination with high intensity sweeteners to create a more balanced and sugar-like palate without any off-taste.
Besides chocolate and confectionery, applications for inulin and oligofructose include fillings and fruit preparations as well. This means that manufacturers can even create healthier pineapple tarts with reduced sugar and added fibre!
High on taste, low on blood sugar
Another major concern for consumers in Asia is diabetes. This is understandable given that the number of people with diabetes in Southeast Asia alone has been projected to increase to 120.9 million by the year 2030, or 10.2 percent of the adult population. Many consumers are choosing foods with low glycaemic value, recognising the role and benefits of a low glycaemic diet in preventing diabetes, improving diabetes control through maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and healthy weight.
Candy and chocolate confectionery tend to come with large quantities of high glycaemic carbohydrates, such as sucrose, glucose and maltodextrin. Food manufacturers can consider reducing glucose supply by replacing these high glycaemic sweeteners with chicory root fibres, or the sugar replacer, isomalt in their recipes. Being non or only partially available, both of them have shown to be effective in reducing the post-prandial glycaemic response of food when substituted for sugar in food and drink items as confirmed by various scientific studies.
Go ahead, indulge the healthier way
Now, consumers can give themselves a treat this festive season, without feeling too guilty about the sugar overload and their corresponding negative impacts on weight and blood sugar management. With BENEO’s range of functional fibres and carbohydrates, manufacturers can now offer a best-of-both-worlds approach by delivering delicious and indulgent chocolates, confectionery and sweet treats with healthier, reduced-sugar profiles for consumers to enjoy all festive season long.
 Euromonitor (Nov 2014), The Sugar Backlash and its Effects on Global Consumer Markets
 International Diabetes Foundation, Southeast Asia