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Sugar under siege: Reformulation can win the battle, says Barry Callebaut

By Oliver Nieburg+

09-Jan-2014
Last updated on 09-Jan-2014 at 13:40 GMT

Don’t overlook reformulation to reduce sugar in chocolate, says Barry Callebaut innovation manager
Don’t overlook reformulation to reduce sugar in chocolate, says Barry Callebaut innovation manager

Replacing sugar with fibers in chocolate could be more effective in reducing global sugar consumption than cutting portion sizes, but will come at a cost, according to Barry Callebaut.

Campaign group Action on Sugar was established today with the aim of pressuring manufacturers to reduce sugar in products by 30% over the next four years. Its chairman told ConfectioneryNews that the organization favored cutting sugar by reducing portion sizes rather than substitution.

Portion control: Foolproof plan to cut calories?

Marijke De Brouwer, innovation manager at Barry Callebaut, said that global salt reduction came through reformulation, so why couldn’t sugar?

“Reducing the portion size is rather easy because it’s only playing with the weight, but with portion size you do not reduce the sugar percentage.”

Fibers for positive health impact

She argued that reformulation would have a greater impact and suggested replacing up to 30% of sugar in chocolate with fibers to perform a bulking function.

 “It has a positive health impact. Fibers have some functional benefits versus sugar.”

A fiber replacement would help increase global fiber consumption and would also limit calories in a product since sugar is 4 kcal per gram and fibers 2 kcal per gram.

The cost

Asked why the practice of replacing sugar with fibers had not yet been widely adopted by the chocolate industry, De Brouwer said: “It’s because of the price impact.”

Barry Callebaut acknowledged that fibers were more expensive but would not say by how much.

Fibers may also impact processability depending on the application, potentially adding an extra cost to ensure products have the same rheology, taste and texture.

“If you want to guarantee it has 30% less sugar, you need to avoid contamination,” added De Brouwer.

She said that brands could feasibly combine reformulation with portion size reduction to cut sugar.

Health implications

Action on Sugar contends that added sugar in food and drinks is an unnecessary source of calories in the diet that is responsible for rising global obesity. It adds that sugar is linked to other damaging health effects such as type II diabetes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that no more than 10% of calories in a person’s diet should come from added sugars for optimal health, but The Sunday Times claims to be in possession of a leaked WHO draft document that says the organization is considering cutting its recommendation to 5% in light of fresh scientific research linking sugar to obesity, heart disease and tooth decay.

What’s the reference?

Action on Sugar hopes manufacturers will reduce sugar by 30% in products over the next four years compared to current levels of sugar in that product.

For example, if Mars opted only for portion control, a 51 g Mars bar would become 42 g.

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