How natural sweeteners changed the game for confectionery


The need for alternatives that taste great, while being natural, clean and inexpensive is high, and with increasing pressure from public health initiatives, sugar tech and food retailers are required to innovate and develop new new product lines.

A specially-hosted summit in Chicago later this month will bring together leaders in R&D, product development and innovation to learn about the latest sugar reduction technologies and alternatives. Topics will include understanding the cost of alternatives to natural sugar, creating label-friendly products, improving taste and mouthfeel, and learning about the latest in fermentation.

Food and beverage products with reduced sugar claims have grown 13.5% annually over the past five years. Natural sweeteners are in the lead as consumers prefer plant-based ingredients over artificially produced sugar substitutes – Tom Fuzer, Vice President of Market Strategy at HOWTIAN

This is a timely event because sugar reduction in confectionery is not going anywhere and is here to stay. Beware of smaller portions in the years to come as companies continue to develop smaller packages with 200 calories or less, allowing consumers to make informed choices when they’re ready to indulge in their favorite snack or candy.

Reducing sugar has been a major trend even before the pandemic, with consumers identifying reducing sugar intake as their primary dietary goal, with weight management a priority.


The emphasis on healthy sweets means that many innovative companies are striving to make their products “sugar-free” using alternative processes and nature’s own sweet solution so that the sweets taste wonderful without the sugar factor. guilt.

The health risks of added sugars in confectionery are well known, but can sugar substitutes offer a credible solution when it comes to taste and mouthfeel?

There are a variety of methods to successfully replace sugar in confectionery and replicate its properties beyond sweetness, says Tom Fuzer, vice president of market strategy at HOWTIAN, the world’s largest maker of natural extracts. of stevia leaves, “One that we found particularly essential is the use of a bulking agent to complement the natural sweeteners and maintain the size of the candy. Natural bulking agents, such as erythritol, allulose, soluble fiber and, in my opinion, are also often needed to provide a similar mouthfeel or chew.​.

Many bulking agents are less sweet than sugar. We recommend using high potency sweeteners like stevia and monkfruit in combination with bulking agents to make up for the difference in sweetness. Most of these sweeteners have a delayed onset of sweetness, so bulk sweetener also provides initial sweetness to better replicate the taste profile of sugar.​.”


Fuzer said that as a result of the pandemic, consumers’ relationship with food and drink has also changed.

Following the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, the obesity epidemic has worsened around the world, leading to a dramatic increase in interest in dieting and healthier eating. Innova Market Insights reports that more than a quarter of respondents have limited their sugar intake in hopes of boosting immunity, a clear response to the pandemic

Although it started before the pandemic, the sugar-cutting trend accelerated during Covid and Fuzer says research shows it’s a trend that’s here to stay.

Food and beverage products with reduced sugar claims have grown 13.5% annually over the past five years. Natural sweeteners are in the lead, as consumers prefer plant-based ingredients over artificially produced sugar substitutes. For the first time ever, the share of consumers checking ingredient labels exceeded 60%. Clean Label products with known, simple and natural ingredients will win in the long run​.”


Furzer also told ConfectioneryNews that another post-pandemic trend he is watching closely is the impact of declining public trust in institutions such as government, the media and major global corporations on our industry.

“Consumers expect more honesty and transparency from product manufacturers, and this is especially true for food and beverages. This means a growing demand for locally produced foods with clean agricultural origins. When it comes to ingredients, natural sweeteners with a transparent, ethical narrative and with credible sustainability stories have become much more appealing.​.”


In addition to food trends, the rise of stevia has been bolstered by its environmental benefits, Fuzer says. Compared to traditional sugars and other sugar alternatives, growing stevia produces a significantly lower carbon and water footprint. As such, stevia is the sweetener of choice for many LOHAS (Lifestyles for Health and Sustainability) consumers.

Fuzer says his company thinks the industry is adapting well overall to the needs and demands of the modern consumer.


One area where we see a need for improvement is addressing some consumers’ outdated perceptions of stevia. When Reb A was first introduced, the industry rushed to market with products containing stevia but neglected to optimize its taste profile.

“Formulations using high levels of Reb A, especially low purity grades, created bitterness, aftertaste, and other off-notes that consumers now continue to associate with stevia.

“Since then, the taste enhancements of stevia have come a long way. Over the past five years, minor glycosides such as Reb D and Reb M have come to market and taste much better than Reb A. Industry should consider reformulating with these better tasting glycosides, especially in formulas without sugar.

He also said that a common and positive feedback from customers is that HOWTIAN’s own SoPure Stevia products have a more consistent taste from batch to batch compared to other stevia suppliers.

Since we have a vertically integrated manufacturing process and produce our own raw stevia extract, we are able to produce more consistency batch after batch. We have also been involved in several independent sensory evaluations which show that our stevia has the cleanest taste and the least bitterness when comparing products of the same level of purity.​.”


The confectionery processing equipment market is expected to reach $8.74 billion by 2028 and the globalization of the food industry and the resulting customer accessibility to various international varieties of confectionery items will significantly affect the demand for sophisticated equipment.

According to Reports and Data, a market research firm based in India and the United States, the increase in demand for sugar-free and organic confectionery products is another driver of lucrative growth opportunities in the market.

Despite favorable market scenario, growing incidence of diabetes in elderly and middle-aged population segments, and rising awareness about the harmful effects of regular sugar consumption will pose a threat to the growth of the market for confectionery processing equipment, he warns.

By application, the soft confectionery segment holds the largest market share due to high consumer demand. The segment has seen many improvements in its production methods over the years to overcome issues such as gelatin degradation and reformulation and will remain the largest application of confectionery processing equipment for years to come.


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