Dr Khalil Divan, director of marketing food and beverage, for the chromatography and mass spectrometry division, said interest in the issue had grown in recent years.
“The area of food labelling is regulated and also has certain quality standards that drive labelling in terms of what is in the product and one of the key labelling requirements is sugar in products,” he told FoodQualityNews at Analytica in Munich.
“There has been a big debate and discussions going on in terms of tax and duty on sugar products and customers have come to us and said how do we address the challenge of doing routine sugar analyses.”
The UK government plans to introduce a soft drinks tax which would come into force in two years’ time – revealed in the March budget by Chancellor George Osborne. There have been calls for the Australian government to do the same.
South Africa said it will introduce a tax on sugary drinks in a February budget speech and Mexico has had such a tax from the start of 2014.
Naturally occurring and added sugars
Dr Divan said the Integrion Ion Chromatography platform could help customers in sugar testing.
“There is a whole range of different sugars that people analyse for, naturally occurring sugars and also sugar that is added to products for quality and taste. What the Integrion brings to our customers is an integrated platform with touch button use for sugar analyses,” he said.
“One of the biggest challenges in sugar analyses is differentiating what type of sugar is added to the product, is it glucose, fructose, sucrose that people might have added or naturally occurs in products.
“So for routine analyses where people want a result in terms of what content it is or what they’ve added to products the Integrion brings a new era in terms of productivity and also from a perspective of helping customers maintain and manage their instrument for sugar analyses.
“There are new innovations like RFID technology which tells the customer how the system is performing, is it up to spec so the results that they get is as they expect and they can accelerate productivity and focus on what is important to them rather than worrying about is my system working fine, is it giving me the right analyses, they can focus on the result and their product and how their product is meeting labelling requirements.”
Sugar analysis had been done in the past with different technologies, said Dr Divan.
“What we’ve heard from customers is total sugar is one way of reporting what is in the product but as customers develop new products they really want to characterize the different type of sugars that are there is it glucose, fructose, sucrose that is naturally occurring or that they add to the products.
“Total sugar doesn’t allow customers to do that capability. So the Integrion platform allows customers, with the same ease of use experienced in the past with direct technologies for total sugar, it gives this capability to identify multiple sugars in one run.”
Dr Divan said a couple of things are driving the market to looking at different technologies and ways of labelling and finding out more.
“When I talk to food customers I don’t see the issue of ‘we can detect more so it is causing us an issue’. Food customers are taking upon themselves to make their product healthier and the right quality which helps protect brand protection,” he said.
“Also consumers are more aware from a social perspective of what happens in the food industry so customer demand is helping the food customers focus and say this is what the customers are actually wanting to know about what’s in our product.
“There are certain sugars which have different calorific values or different characteristics so it might be that total sugar doesn’t give the big picture and identifying these compounds gives them a better perspective in meeting not only quality and demand from a nutritional perspective but also helping them meet the demand of customer awareness and consumer demands which drives the market and new product developments.”
Dr Divan said isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IR-MS) can identify where the sugars come from by looking at the isotopic ratio of certain carbon, oxygens in terms of the sugar profile to pinpoint if it has come from Italy or various regions of the world.
He added ion chromatography can differentiate between sugars as there are sugar markers in terms of oligosaccharides which are present in key products.
“An example is orange juice which is a key commodity, if the orange harvest fails the orange concentrate goes up so people adulterate or dilute with different levels of different products,” he said.
“There are naturally occurring sugars in natural orange juice which our ion chromatography platform can identify so it gives it a clear technology to identify where the sugars come from and identify key oligosaccharides which tells what the product has been adulterated with.
“Polysaccharides are added to products from a texture perspective as thickening agents, like inulin. Which type of inulin is being used give different texture profiles so being able to characterise polysaccharides is a big demand and ion chromatography sets itself as a key technology in helping these customers to characterize inulin or polysaccharides which are added from a texture perspective to food products.”