Across Asia, urban dwellers are discovering that rapid economic growth comes at a price—a more hectic lifestyle. With long hours at work, in combination with family and personal commitments, many consumers feel exhausted, and experience a lack of energy. Apparently, fatigue has become the number one health concern in Asia. As such, consumers are resorting to snacking in between meals to combat the missing energy. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a growing market for packaged or convenience food in the Asia Pacific region, with India, Singapore and China all demanding convenient and tasty on-the-go food products.
However, reaching for a mid-day snack such as a chocolate bar or cookie is not necessarily the best solution to get the needed energy to stay physically and mentally active. On the contrary, these foods may instead invoke the kind of fatigue that consumers are trying their best to avoid. Sweet confectionery products, including cakes, chocolates and cookies, tend to contain a high percentage of conventional sugars like glucose, in addition to other high glycaemic carbohydrates, which are the main culprits of energy spikes and crashes.
Urban consumers want the best of both worlds – convenient food that gives them that extra energy boost to make it through the day, and at the same time sufficient nutrition for a healthy lifestyle and improved overall well-being. In this article, Christian Philippsen, Managing Director for BENEO in Asia Pacific, introduces how food manufacturers can use this opportunity to cater to the demand for a tasty snack providing the essential energy for the human body, without the subsequent energy crash.
Understanding The Energy Spike And Crash
The human body runs on glucose—and it is essential to stay physically and mentally active. High glycaemic carbohydrates such as sucrose or maltodextrin release glucose into the bloodstream rapidly, which result in extreme blood glucose ‘spikes’. Consequently, these spikes trigger high insulin levels and in turn put our body under metabolic stress.
The hormone insulin plays a key role in the regulation of metabolism after food intake. It is released when blood glucose levels rise; and insulin promotes the uptake of nutrients from the blood into cells and their subsequent storage. However, following the release of insulin, glucose supply in the body is quickly depleted, causing the body’s blood sugar level to drop, potentially to levels even below baseline. Consumers experience this as an energy ‘crash’—a return to the fatigue that the snacking was originally consumed to fix.
With consumers in Asia being particularly concerned about fatigue, and continue to look to their favourite snacks to provide the energy boost to overcome the midday slump, this presents an innovative opportunity for the region’s food manufacturers to exceed their expectations by providing a healthier, and tastier alternative.
Overcoming The ‘Crash’
To make the most of this demand for a steadier and sustained energy release, manufacturers are continuously looking towards products that are incorporating PalatinoseTM (generic name isomaltulose), the next generation sugar.
Palatinose has a unique physiological profile that helps support healthy nutrition and blood glucose management in new product formulations. Although it is classified as a sugar, it has a special molecular structure and unique physiological properties—it is low-glycaemic yet fully digestible, and thus is seen as a ‘good’ sugar. In particular, its uniqueness lies in the fact that it provides the body with the full amount of energy (4kcal/g) in a balanced and sustained manner, which is reflected by a low and steady blood glucose response curve. In addition, it is able to fully or partially replace sucrose or other high glycaemic carbohydrates.
As a result, the isomalt can be used in various types of food and drinks. Derived from natural beet sugar, it has a sugar-like sweet taste and can be used in the development of a wide range of great tasting and healthy snack products, from cereals and baked goods, to dairy products and nutritional sports drinks.
Catering To Asia
According to the World Urbanisation report, Asia is the fastest urbanising region in the world. In fact, the region was home to 53 percent of the world’s urban population in 2014. This translates into a host of promising opportunities for manufacturers looking to tap into the demand for healthier snack alternatives, with forward-looking manufacturers already infusing their products with Palatinose.
The right choice of carbohydrate helps ensure that consumers have adequate energy throughout the day for their increasingly hectic lifestyles. These carbohydrates provide them with access to sustained energy release mechanisms and improved metabolic balance. Palatinose offers the region’s food manufacturers with innovative new formulating options.