Obesity is a growing concern in the Asia Pacific region. In fact, consumers and food manufacturers alike are both demanding for and providing more products to counter this in recent years—such that sales of weight management products in the region showed the fastest value growth between 2008 and 2013, reaching almost US$20 billion in 2013, reported Euromonitor.
In particular, the consumption of sugar has been a major stumbling block for many people who want to maintain a healthy weight, with studies showing a correlation between global growth in sugar consumption and the rise in the number people with obesity and non-communicable diseases.
In lieu of this, many governments worldwide are calling for consumers to reduce their sugar intake. As a result, consumers are starting to identify sugar as the “new demon” and are looking for products with less sugar. However, being aware of the negative effects of extensive sugar consumption has not translated into advantage of this opportunity, and offer food products that have an optimised nutritional profile with less sugar, while at the same time offering the taste sensation that consumers are seeking.
SUGAR-FREE, SUGAR-REDUCED BUT SUGAR-LIKE
According to a Nielsen report, Asia Pacific saw a 15 percent increase in sales of health food products between 2012 and 2014.
Today, food manufacturers that include functional ingredients such as prebiotic fibres and sugar replacers are well equipped to help lower the sugar levels while still offering the same characteristics in terms of sweetness, texture and mouthfeel to their food products. Additionally, key local players can now also make the most of high quality food ingredients, which was previously a market dominated by international companies.
For example, Beneo has a sugar replacer that enables food manufactur-ers to cut down on the amount of sugar used, therefore reducing the number of calories in their products and providing consumers with a greater choice of healthy food products. It is also the only sugar replacer derived from pure beet sugar, which gives it a sugar-like sweetening profile.
Sugar replacers such as these allow for a 1:1 replacement of sugar in food products. Therefore, being sugarfree, low glycaemic, and low in calories (about two kilocalories per gram), sugar replacers can improve the nutritional profile of food products, while providing the same taste, mouthfeel, and texture as sugar.
Further, they can be used in a variety of products including candies, chewing gum, chocolates and baked goods. For those with a low hygroscopicity, they also enhance the storage stability of biscuits and cookies, allowing them to stay crisp for longer periods.
FIBROUS AND NUTRITIOUS
Dietary fibre has a good health halo, and it is a key ingredient in dairy, bakery and cereals. Consumers in Asia specifically shop for products with fi bre as they try to consume as much dietary fibre as possible. They are increasingly realising that next to its recognised digestive health benefits, dietary fibres also help in weight management efforts.
Containing only 1.5 kilocalories per gram (kCal/g) instead of the 4kCal/g as provided by sucrose, dietary fibre is often used as an alternative to reduce calories. As such, they are ideal ingredients to replace sugar partially in formulations and at the same time, increasing the fibre content of final products.
Furthermore, research has also shown that dietary fibres can help to reduce the calorie intake in some cases, which in turn helps consumers eat less. As such, these provide new avenues and opportunities for the food and beverage industry to approach consumers who would like to manage their weight efficiently.
Dietary fibres that are natural and without undesired aftertastes would also add an extra appeal for manufacturers to use them in products, as some can also support or enhance the product’s texture such as by keeping food items like nutrition bars soft and chewy, greatly benefitting both manufacturers and consumers alike.
Lastly, some have also been known to contribute to the Maillard browning reactions—this helps to provide the desirable browning appearance found in baked goods.
CHOOSING RIGHT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
Today, food manufacturers are forced to reformulate and lower the sugar content in their recipes. Tapping on innovative functional ingredients from natural sources that create tasty food products and also deliver nutritionalbenefits is definitely a smart move.This is especially crucial to the modernday consumer who is health conscious but equally demanding when it comes to the natural origin, convenience and taste of food products.