By Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, BENEO, Asia Pacific
In the past, trying to find sugar-free products in the candy aisle was an exception rather than the norm. Fast forward to today, the shelves are lined with a dizzying selection of sugar-free or sugar-reduced options, making consumers spoiled for choice.
This trend can be largely attributed to consumers becoming more health-conscious and aware of nutritional labels as a result of an increase in health problems, with high levels of obesity and diabetes causing many consumers to seek more sugar-free products. In fact, six out of ten consumers globally say that health is the priority for them when selecting indulgent products.
Meeting consumer expectations with healthy confectionery
With so many consumers looking to improve their blood sugar levels, the challenge that now stands for many confectionery manufacturers is creating sugar-free products that have the same taste and texture as regular ones. As sugar is crucial for taste and texture, there is a range of technical and sensorial obstacles that must be overcome to effectively reduce sugar and also meet high consumer expectations.
In any product reformulation involving cutting out sugar or fat, the difficulty is to maintain the same sweetness and mouthfeel that is given by the original ingredients. Consumers want a better nutritional profile, but they don’t want to make sacrifices when it comes to the overall indulgent experience. But thanks to the introduction of functional ingredients, the quality of sugar-reduced; no added sugar; and sugar-free products have vastly improved and are thus now making their presence more well-known in the global confectionery market.
In particular, the sugar-free chocolate market has witnessed significant growth, with the Asia Pacific region found to be the fastest growing market. The region is anticipated to produce the highest growth rate compared to all other regions, with a 6.97% CAGR increase from 2017 to 2027.
With healthy confectionery growing in importance, sugar-free chocolate is an ideal choice that food manufacturers can consider when expanding their catalogues. To successfully manufacture sugar-free chocolate, producers can look to bulk sugar replacers that provide sweetness, such as Isomalt.
Increasing that ‘Feel Good’ factor
BENEO’s Isomalt is the only sugar replacer derived exclusively from sugar beet. It has a sweetening profile similar to sucrose – but with only half the calories – a very low glycaemic response and toothfriendly characteristics. Thanks to its many benefits, Isomalt is already a popular choice for candy producers across the world.
As Isomalt has a similar sweetness profile to sucrose but without the undesirable cooling effect of other polyols, it is the ideal sugar replacer for use in low and no sugar chocolate. Also, by combining Isomalt with natural sweeteners, the pleasant taste that consumers are looking for in their chocolate is easily achieved.
As well as replacing sugar in recipes, BENEO’s Isomalt also delivers a range of other benefits. For example, it supports a low glycaemic diet. Studies have shown that both blood glucose and insulin levels rise only minimally after Isomalt consumption, compared with glucose. This is especially relevant when managing diabetes, overweight or cardiovascular diseases. By helping consumers to keep their blood sugar levels more stable, Isomalt increases the ‘feel-good’ factor of any sugar-free or sugar-reduced chocolate that it is used in.
In addition, Isomalt supports dental health and carries an EU health claim for being toothfriendly as well as a US health claim for not promoting tooth decay. BENEO’s sugar replacer also offers technical benefits. Isomalt is low hygroscopic which provides stability for finished chocolate stored in more humid climates. Moreover, its sugar-like texturising properties give chocolate the nice snap that consumers expect.
Indulging without having to compromise
With 73.3% and 66.3% of respondents in Thailand and Indonesia finding reduced sugar claims in chocolate appealing, the overwhelming demand in Asia Pacific for healthier chocolate doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, as consumers are constantly looking to satisfy their sweet tooth without having to settle.
With the help of sugar replacers like Isomalt, confectionery manufacturers can reformulate products that deliver the same taste and texture of regular chocolate, while also providing health benefits such as a low glycaemic response and toothfriendly attributes that align with consumers’ healthy agendas.
Providing a win-win situation for both manufacturers and consumers, it appears to be onwards and upwards for Isomalt in the sugar-free chocolate market.
 Sugar-free Products Market by Type; Sweetening Type; Distribution Channel – Global Forecasts to 2029
 Health Focus International 2020 Global Healthy Indulgence Report
 Fortune Business Insights – Sugar-Free Chocolate Market Size, Share & Industry Analysis, By Form, By Type, By Category, By Distribution Channel
 Global Sugar-Free Chocolate Research Report – Forecast to 2023
 FMCG Gurus – Chocolate – July 2022 – Thailand & Indonesia
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