Food & Drink Technology spoke to Mary Mitchell, application scientist at PureCircle, to find out more about the challenges faced by the dairy industry today when reducing sugar in yogurt.
In the dairy industry today, health and wellness platforms drive a large proportion of new product introductions, with ‘minus’ and ‘natural’ claims topping the list during the past five years, according to recent Mintel data.
A minus product claim can relate to low/no/reduced fat, sugar, calories and salt – all ingredients now firmly on the consumer’s radar when looking for ‘better for you’ products for the family. In addition, consumers are also attracted to consumer labelling claims such as organic, GMO-free and no additives or preservatives; all of which continue to build on the customer’s search for more naturality.
The media on a daily basis influences the consumer with ongoing messages regarding the health implications of weight gain. World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows the average obesity rate among adults in the EU overall stood at 17 per cent in 2012 and continues to rise. As WHO recently focused not just on total calories but on sugar content – recommending consumers to cut sugar intake by half to help combat the obesity trend – the general public and press are increasingly scrutinising dairy for potential sugar content, where the previous focus was almost solely on fat.
Stevia products are well placed to be a force for good across the food and beverage industry, and, in particular, dairy. Stevia innovation over recent years has become a key dairy ingredient in response to the global fight against sugar reduction for health.
According to Mary Mitchell, application scientist at PureCircle, “When high purity stevia was first introduced to the wider European market as a sweetening ingredient in 2011, formulators only had limited options, usually focusing on Reb A to work with.
Today, there are more options for the food manufacturer. For example, with our own Stevia 3.0 platform, this includes a broad portfolio of stevia ingredients and flavours. We’ve gone beyond a single ingredient solution to a synergistic, application specific, tailored approach. The customisation available through Stevia 3.0 has enabled our customer’s foods and beverage launches to successfully deliver deeper calorie reductions with superior taste.”
Stevia adoption rates have been on the rise in recent years, as consumers are drawn to its zero calories and natural origin sweetness, with many manufacturers now realising the opportunity in offering mid calorie products across many categories, including dairy.
Challenges in yogurt manufacture
‘Typically in yogurt, calories from fat have been well communicated on front of pack, with clear labelling of ‘low fat’ or ‘fat free’ options,” comments Mitchell. “However, consumers are increasingly looking for clarity on total calorie count, with sugar content being of particular interest in indulgent categories, but equally so in everyday fruited yogurts.
“These yoghurts are largely 12 to 15 per cent total sugar, including the naturally occurring milk sugars, fruit sugars, and added sugar. Reducing or eliminating calories or added sugar in fruited yogurts while maintaining a creamy, indulgent mouth feel often requires an approach encompassing reduction of both sugar and fat in both fruit preparation and white mass.
“The right stevia application means a manufacturer can achieve a good balance of sweetness in the finished product, whilst maintaining the creamy sweet taste expected from fresh yogurt even when reducing total calorie content.”
Yogurt is a very active and thriving category, with health trends such as proteins or live cultures driving NPD – a perfect fit with stevia, as a natural origin solution that consumers see as more indulgent and closer to sugar than other high potency sweetening platforms. 2014 saw as many stevia launches in dairy in Europe as 2012 and 2013 combined, as new solutions enable manufacturers to achieve great tasting products.
New innovation is happening constantly in the stevia industry, as stevia producers learn more and more about the versatility of this incredible leaf and the unique way its properties can be harnessed to reduce calorie count in products whilst maintaining sweetness and texture.