Daria, what are some of the key trends currently influencing product reformulation?
“Many new food trends are linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. Across all regions, consumers have become more aware of healthy eating, and are looking to make changes to their diets as a consequence. Many people are now actively trying to improve their diet, and reduce their sugar intake.
“Governments are also trying to tackle the obesity crisis, as well reduce incidences of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. New UK regulations for example restrict the marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). Brands and retailers, especially in the soft drink segment, are looking to reduce sugar while maintaining natural label declarations.
“The natural origin of ingredients also plays an important role for consumers. According to Innova, almost three in four consumers in Europe believe that companies should be more efficient with natural resources, and 69% think that governments should do more.”
And what are some of the challenges facing manufacturers in meeting these demands?
“From the perspective of food developers, the first area of my focus lands on taste and flavour. Making low-calorie products taste like sugar is very challenging. For years, due to its natural source, stevia has been regarded as the perfect sweetener to replace sugar, fructose, and artificial sweeteners.
“Historically the first-generation stevia, also known as Reb A, has often been associated with aftertaste, sweet linger, delayed onset. Depending on the source and quality of the raw ingredient used by some suppliers, it can give poor results.”
How can Sweegen help manufacturers deliver on sugar reduction?
“Our biggest asset at Sweegen is our people. All of us are really enthusiastic about food and passionate about the role we play in the food industry. Our mission is to bring joy and happiness to consumers, without requiring them to compromise on taste and health. At Sweegen, we also have the expertise to help our clients navigate regulatory frameworks to reach their regional goals.”
What are some of your latest product solutions?
“Reducing sugar is a complex balancing act. In order to deliver a full taste experience, you need to take into consideration all the other attributes apart from sweetness such us flavour delivery, texture, mouthfeel, astringency and acidity.
“Sweegen's technologies are based on leading and patented bioconversion processes, which is why we have a wide-ranging portfolio of Signature Stevia sweeteners that include our Bestevia Reb M, Reb D, Reb E, and many other steviol glycosides. In 2021, Sweegen earned regulatory approval for its Signature Bestevia Reb M in Europe. This enables greater flexibility in satisfying regional preferences for sweetness and great taste.
“Sweegen’s Bestevia® Full Taste Solutions help to re-balance sugar reduced products for optimal sweetness, mouthfeel and flavour – all in a single product format.”
How do you typically work with manufacturers on reformulation?
“We have many global creative hubs which we call our Innovation Studios. Our goal is to be as close as possible to the relevant market in order to respond quickly to our client’s needs. This approach gives brands the ability to develop unique solutions with local insights, and allows them to use market research and proximity to customers to target products that are increasingly popular with consumers.
“Sensory is at the heart of food and beverage product development. This is especially important in the case of sugar reduction. To remain at the forefront, we have a descriptive panel in North America and Europe specialised in sweeteners, and also use naïve tasters to test for differences. Every project is discussed in detail with the client to establish the sensory requirements.”
What for you is a successful collaboration?
“Success for me is seeing the product we have developed, or supported developing, landing on the supermarket shelf. One recent success story for Sweegen was a beverage launch in the largest Danish supermarket. This brand covers a wide selection of flavours, from very trendy passion fruit to elderflower and cola. Our customer started with reducing sugar by 70%, and at the end succeeded in launching a no added sugar beverage line.
“I am certain that this would have been impossible to achieve using first-generation stevia. It amazes me how much progress the industry has made over the last few years.”
What key lessons do you hope attendees take away from your presentation at Fi Europe?
“That sugar reduction is without a doubt challenging! But with all our available tools, we can really help global companies and small entrepreneurial businesses meet their goals of developing healthier yet delicious products.
“I’d also like to mention that in early 2022, Sweegen expanded an extensive sweetener portfolio with the zero-calorie, high-intensity sweetener Brazzein. Brazzein is a small, heat-stable protein, 500 to 2,000 times sweeter than regular sugar, making it extremely attractive to food and beverage manufacturers seeking excellent value in a sweetener.
“Brazzein is the first product generated from our new peptide platform, which fits well into our existing world-scale, precision fermentation infrastructure. At Sweegen, we recognise that the market is driven by the innovation, which is why there are more novel ingredients in our pipeline!”