An ultra low-calorie sugar found naturally in jackfruit and figs that Tate & Lyle, Matsutani (in partnership with Ingredion), and CJ CheilJedang are making in commercial quantities from corn using enzymes,* allulose has the clean taste, bulk and functionality of regular sugar (sucrose), and about 70% of its sweetness.
It can be used to reduce or replace sugar in everything from baked goods and candies to yogurts and ice cream and also browns during baking, depresses the freezing point when making frozen products, and is highly-soluble. It has no cooling effect like erythritol and also works well with with monk fruit and stevia.
The problem for formulators and marketers has been that allulose currently counts towards ‘total sugar’ and ‘added sugar’ on the Nutrition Facts panel, despite the fact it contributes virtually no calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin, which confuses consumers (particularly diabetics) and has deterred some manufacturers from using it, say suppliers.
Icon Foods: 'This is an absolute game changer'
Thom King, CEO at sweeteners specialist Icon Foods, predicted that now the FDA has decided to stop treating allulose like regular sugar on food labels, formulators will embrace it quickly.
"We have literally dozens of formulations we have queued up for customers just waiting for this ruling. The added sugar was a big issue. No longer. Our phones and emails are blowing up with requests."
He added: "This is a total game changer for the food industry. This is the first ever saccharide that is being pushed from added sugar on the nutritional facts panel. Allulose no longer needs to be reported as an added sugar so, there will be thousands of new products coming out in the months to come. This is such a great day and the end of a long battle."
Asked whether the fact that the FDA still requires firms to include allulose grams under 'total carbohydrate' would put off companies seeking to use it in keto products, King said:
"It has been my experience that with the majority of our customers using our allulose, stevia monk fruit blend that, while allulose shows up on the Nutrition Facts panel as a carb, allulose is subtracted from the total carb count when reporting 'net carbs.' As far as consumers go, the Keto community is pretty savvy when it comes to allulose and they, by and large, understand that allulose doesn’t affect blood sugar levels and will not take one out of keto."
Tate & Lyle: 'We see this as a real breakthrough'
Abigail Storms, VP, Sweetener Platform Innovation at Tate & Lyle, told FoodNavigator-USA: "Despite the fact it contributes virtually no calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar, the fact that allulose has (until now) had to count towards ‘total sugar’ and ‘added sugar’ on the Nutrition Facts panel, has been confusing for consumers. In addition, where our customers are looking for solutions for both sugar and calorie reduction in their products, Allulose could only deliver on one half of the proposition when it came to labeling.
"Now we can provide the sweetening ingredient DOLCIA PRIMA Allulose, that really can do both sugar and calorie reduction. We see this as a real breakthrough, with numerous customers across categories formulating with allulose, and just waiting on the label change so that the proposition is clear to consumers. We already manufacture both the syrup and crystalline formats so the ingredient can be used across a broad array of applications, from beverages, to bakery, confectionery and dairy.
"I look forward to broad adoption of allulose, opening up a world of sugar-like taste, but without all the sugar and calories on the label."
FDA: 'Allulose has fewer calories, produces only negligible increases in blood glucose or insulin levels, and does not promote dental decay'
In draft guidance issued this morning, Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said the agency had taken on board these points expressed via citizen's petitions, and decided to act:
“The latest data suggests that allulose is different from other sugars in that it is not metabolized by the human body in the same way as table sugar. It has fewer calories, produces only negligible increases in blood glucose or insulin levels, and does not promote dental decay.
“As such, we’ve issued guidance today stating that we intend to exercise enforcement discretion to allow allulose to be excluded from the total and added sugars declarations on the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels when allulose is used as an ingredient [however, allulose must be included in the amount of 'total carbohydrate' declared on the label]."
Dr Mayne added: “Allulose will still count towards the caloric value of the food on the label – but the guidance document issued today states our intent to exercise enforcement discretion to allow the use of a revised, lower calorie count [instead of 4cal/g as is standard with sugars, this will be revised down to 0.4cals/g].
“As with other ingredients, allulose must still be declared in the ingredient list. This is the first time the FDA has stated its intent to allow a sugar to not be included as part of the total or added sugars declarations on labels, a reflection of our flexible and science-based approach to food product labeling.”
Ingredion, which has partnered with Matsutani Chemical Industry Co to produce allulose, said construction is "well underway" at a dedicated manufacturing site in Mexico to produce the sugar under the ASTRAEA brand, with commercial scale availability of products expected this year.
"With the FDA announcement, we can now partner more closely with customers as they look to harness the full potential of ASTRAEA allulose and help them bring winning products to market that meet consumers’ taste and indulgent wants and health and wellness needs,” said Afrouz Naeini, Ingredion’s regional platform leader for sugar reduction in the U.S. and Canada.
What's in a name?
Alex Woo, Ph.D. chief executive at consultancy W2O Food Innovation and an expert on sweeteners, told FoodNavigator-USA last year that the commercialization of allulose is an exciting development for the food industry given the pressure to reduce sugar and calories, but he queried whether the ingredient's name was consumer-friendly, adding: “I'd say ’ose’ is more of an organic chemistry term than a consumer term.”
Ultimately, a lot would come down to price, he said. “It would need to be on a parity with erythritol or lower.”
*“The simple way of explaining the process is that we take the carbohydrate from corn and then go through an enzymatic conversion process to produce allulose,” said Abigail Storms, VP, Sweeteners Platform Innovation at Tate & Lyle.
“Our carbohydrate source is corn, which enables cost effectiveness and scale. In addition to corn, different sources of carbohydrate could be used such as sucrose from sugar cane or beets. We could also use non-GMO corn for customers looking for non-GMO options.”
"Our current thinking is that, consistent with the goal of section 403(q) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for the nutrient declarations to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices, we should consider not only the chemical structure of sugars, but also other evidence including their association with dental caries, their effect on blood glucose and insulin levels, as well as their caloric contribution, when determining whether a sugar should be included in the declaration of 'Total Sugars' on the label."
FDA draft guidance, April 17, 2019
"Allulose is different from other sugars in that it is not metabolized by the human body, it has negligible calories, it does not contribute to increases in blood glucose or insulin levels, and if included as carbohydrates and sugar (added sugar) on the Nutrition Facts label, it would lead to confusion to the consumer, particularly consumers with diabetes or those consumers otherwise concerned with accurately monitoring blood glucose.
"Allulose differs from traditional sugars in that it is absorbed in the body and excreted predominantly via the urine without being metabolized."
Tate & Lyle citizen's petition to the FDA
Interested in sugar reduction? Checkout our FREE webinar on April 30, where deputy editor Elizabeth Crawford will lead an expert panel of speakers through a 45-minute discussion on how consumers’ views on sugar are changing the way they shop, and as a result the way food and beverage manufacturers are making products. You'll then get the opportunity to quiz panelists from Lily's Sweets, ALOHA, NuNaturals and more at THE SWEET SPOT: REDUCING SUGAR WITHOUT REDUCING FLAVOR.