Soaring sugar prices have inspired Tate & Lyle to develop new beverage prototypes under its Optimize platform, which replace as much as 45 per cent of the sugar with blend of sweeteners but without impairing taste.
Sugar prices reached a 30-year high of 29.74 US dollar cents per lb (454g), according to Index Mundi. Contributing factors on the world stage were drought in Brazil and the pummelling of Australia’s sugar producers first by floods, then by Cyclone Yasi.
Tate & Lyle’s Optimize platform showcases the company’s sweetener and texture expertise, and was rolled out across Europe in 2009, as food manufacturers were taking a long, hard look at their formulations and considering how they could reduce their vulnerability to food commodity price shocks.
Paul Cornillon, VP of global applications at Tate & Lyle Specialty Food Ingredients, said: “Our goal is to help our customers face the challenges the markets throw at them. With commodity prices soaring and consumers becoming increasingly cost and health conscious, manufacturers are finding it more challenging than ever before to maintain profitability.
“The pressure on margins is such that manufacturers need to step up their reformulation efforts – this new product shows what can be achieved.”
The sweeteners used in the prototypes are either Splenda sucralose alone, or a combination of Splenda and Fructopure fructose.
The clutch of new prototypes span the juice, carbonated soft drink, tea-flavoured drink, and flavoured water sub-categories.
Company spokesperson Caroline Sanders told FoodNavigator.com that traditionally companies have looked at reducing calories by around 30 per cent, as that is the regulatory cut-off point for making ‘reduced sugar’ claims. However these beverages are intended to sit on the shelf alongside the full calorie versions, rather than being necessarily ‘diet’ drinks.
“In the interests of cost reduction it makes sense to go behind that 30 per cent magic line,” she said.
One example is a pomegranate-grape beverage which has 45 per cent less sugar than a standard formulation. Not only does this mean a reduction in costs for the manufacturers, but it also reduces the calorie load in the beverage, in line with consumer priorities for healthier eating and drinking.
Sanders said that in this case there is a good interplay between the fructose sweetener and the fruit, helping it to have a “full-blown” flavour.
Another example she gave was of an orange carbonated beverage with 50 per cent less sugar.
Tate & Lyle cites data from Mintel’s Global New Production Database (GNPD) that indicates global introductions of beverage products containing sucralose increased by 21% between 2007 and 2010; and beverage launches using sucralose and fructose in combination rose by 30%.