Nestlé SA has developed a process to alter the structure of sugar that makes it taste sweeter in smaller amounts, which could help the food giant respond to increasing pressures from governments, health advocates and shoppers to make products healthier without compromising on taste.
The company has not specified details, but claims the proprietary process can reduce the amount of sugar in chocolate by as much as 40 percent. According to Chief Technology Officer Stefan Catsicas in an interview with Bloomberg, Nestlé will start selling confectionary products made this way in 2018 and will gradually reduce their sugar content.
“We want people to get used to a different taste, a taste that would be more natural,” Catsicas said. “We really want to be the drivers of the solution.”
Nestlé’s sugar reduction process allows sugar crystals to dissolve more quickly, which stimulates the taste buds faster. Catsicas likened it to making the crystals “hollow.” The company is also trying to mimic aspects of the complex structures of unprocessed foods by distributing the sugar in a less uniform way.
The Future of Packaging: Challenges and Key Directions for Innovation
Join us as Burt's Bees, Canopy, Smile Compostable Solutions and Sway share keen insights into the most promising trends, competing priorities and biggest hurdles around sustainable and regenerative packaging innovations — Wednesday, Oct. 18, at SB'23 San Diego.
“Real food in nature is not something smooth and homogeneous,” Catsicas explained. “It’s full of cavities, crests and densities. So by reproducing this variability, we are capable to restore the same sensation.”
The potential 40 percent reduction is not a formal target, and the company has also not yet announced its 2017 targets for reducing the sugar content of its products. Nestlé has also used a similar approach with its Dreyer’s ice cream; its “slow-churned” method reduces fat by half and calories by a third. Nestlé has not announced whether the restructuring method will be used in other product categories, but it is reportedly trying to apply it to salt. Catsicas added that the company may consider licensing the technology to other companies after it has secured its patent.
Big Food has been paying more and more attention to consumers’ demand for “healthier” options. PepsiCo, for example, launched vending machines this year full of “good- and better-for-you” food and beverage product choices. In the UK in particular, sugar has been blamed for “fuelling the obesity epidemic,” resulting in a tax on sugary beverages that was passed earlier this year. A study from Oxford University and the University of Reading found that the combination of sugar and carbon taxes in the UK could produce £3.6 billion in revenue and reduce emissions by 19 million tonnes.