Sweetening Up | WholeFoods Magazine

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Tapioca syrup is one ingredient that can be used in confections and more as a label-friendly replacement for corn syrup sweeteners, according to Scott Helstad, Technical Service Representative at Cargill. “In creating these syrups, our research and ingredient processing teams worked to develop products with carbohydrate profiles and DE [Dextrose Equivalent] levels that mirror our existing corn syrups, including a reduced-sugar option. The resulting tapioca syrups perform nearly identically to their corn syrup equivalents, allowing one-to-one replacement with little to no additional formulation work.”

Stevia is another standard pick. It’s a staple in Cargill’s product inventory, says Andrew Ohmes, the company’s Global Director High Intensity Sweeteners. “When Cargill first envisioned offering stevia as a commercial sweetener back in the 2000s, no stevia supply chain of scale existed. We set out to build a world-class socially and environmentally responsible supply chain from the outset.” Ohmes says Cargill’s sustainability program in the stevia industry spans 137 control criteria across 13 different categories, includes a detailed agricultural standard designed to minimize the environmental impact of production practices, and focus on ethical requirements that cover worker safety and welfare. “We train the farmers who partner with us on agricultural best practices, designed to enhance the soil, and conserve and improve water quality.” And in the process: “We’ve drastically improved the taste of newer stevia products, making formulation much easier.”

An option that is sometimes blended with stevia, but also can stand alone: monk fruit. “We are seeing a strong trend towards using monk fruit as a single sweetener rather than blending with other sweeteners like stevia,” says David Thorrold, General Manager Sales and Marketing at Monk Fruit Corp. He credits the shift to consumers spending more on eating in, which he says is increasing demand for products with premium ingredients like monk fruit that support a healthy nutritional profile.

Consumers are also looking beyond flavor and choosing options that add function. For manufacturers working to meet the demand, BENEO has two low-glycemic fibrous sugar replacements that the company calls “new generation sugars.” Slowly released and derived from sugar beet, BENEO’s Palatinose provides balanced and sustained energy and can be applied to chewy candy, chewing gum, or chocolate, says Krause. And Isomalt is used as a sugar replacer in hard candies and has a sweetening profile close to sucrose.

Andrea Mayer, Vice President of Global Sales at Andean Star Corporation, agrees that consumers are on the market for natural, plant-based, low-calorie, low-glycemic sweeteners that also provide additional nutritional or health benefits. A top-selling sweetener for Andean Star Corp. is Yacon Syrup, a 100% natural, organic certified, vegan, raw, low- calorie, low-glycemic, and gluten-free prebiotic sweetener that a good fit for dieters, diabetics, and people who are interested in living a healthy lifestyle.

Agave also remains a popular pick. One of Wholesome Sweeteners’ top-selling products is Organic Blue Agave, a liquid sweetener sourced from farmers in Mexico. “Organic Blue Agave can be used for many things, including sweetening beverages and cocktails, in smoothies, on top of oatmeal, on toast, and in many more ways,” says Kruesi.  “Agave has a low glycemic index so it is a great option for folks seeking less of a ‘sugar spike.’ It also has a mild, versatile flavor profile, and it is sweeter than sugar—so a little goes a long way.”

Adventurous shoppers might want to tickle their tastebuds with a little something different, like coconut sugar. Or for even more of a twist, Chef Nik Fields, CEO, Chic Chef Co, says the company offers innovative sweetener options like his flavored vinegars, and floral flavored simple syrups. Fields points out that consumers tend to think of brown sugar or maple syrup when they think of sweeteners, but, “Vinegar, especially balsamic vinegar, is naturally sweet, and when it cooks, it gets even sweeter. Vinegar can lower cholesterol and blood sugar, is a natural fat and has natural sugar.

In addition to the flavor and the function, many consumers have another focus: Free-from. Suzanne’s Specialties offers vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free sweeteners. The company has a full line of natural sweeteners that retain plant identity and micronutrients, including organic brown rice syrup, organic wildflower honey, organic agave syrup, and organic clarified rice syrup.

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