Souring on sweet: How sugar health concerns are spurring sour flavours


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Half of UK consumers think carbonated soft drinks contain too much sugar, Mattucci said.
Half of UK consumers think carbonated soft drinks contain too much sugar, Mattucci said.
Ongoing consumer concern about sugar consumption means some consumers are turning away from sweet tastes altogether, according to market research organisation Mintel.

Sugar has received a lot of bad press in recent months, and consumers are taking notice. According to Mintel global food science analyst Stephanie Mattucci, many consumers are turning their backs not just on sugar, but on sweet tastes altogether. Speaking at the IFT show in Chicago this week, she said food and drink manufacturers were looking for alternatives to sweet – and sour flavours in particular were on the rise.

“The [UK’s] Action on Sugar campaign is really affecting consumer opinion on sugar,”​ she said. “Forty-three per cent have noticed an increase in media coverage on how sugar affects health in the past year….Flavours that can offer alternatives to sweet are going to become more appealing.”

Why sour?

Mattucci said the global trend toward more sour ingredients was driven by more than just an aversion to sugar; globalisation has exposed consumers to more sour flavours, from Greek yoghurt, to fermented Korean kimchi, to Chinese sour plum, or German sour apple.

In addition, as Western consumers yearn for more ‘real foods’, traditional preparation techniques, like fermentation and pickling, are gaining in popularity, spurring development of other sour-tasting foods and drinks for the modern consumer. As a result, sour beverages like drinking vinegars – known as shrubs – have seen a resurgence in the West. Although they have been popular for many years in Southeast Asia, shrubs were more well-known in Europe among the ancient Greeks, and were consumed by 18th​ century Americans.

Acid whey drinks are also beginning to proliferate on a global level, as manufacturers seek ways to use this nutritious by-product of Greek yoghurt production.

“In Germany, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic, acid whey is being used as an ingredient already, mainly in drinks,”​ Mattucci said.

She added that half of UK consumers think carbonated soft drinks contain too much sugar, while 31% of German consumers prefer soft drinks that are less sweet.

“About two-thirds of UK consumers agree that a healthy diet should be low in sugar​,” she said, adding that more than seven in ten (71%) think food and drink companies should be doing more to reduce the amount of sugar in their products.

Apart from the Action on Sugar campaign, the move away from sugar has been spurred by the recent World Health Organisation recommendations to limit added sugar intake to less than 10% of calories, with extra benefits from limiting it further, to less than 5% of calories. 

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