It’s often said that the only constant in life is change, and this holds especially true for the food industry. In fact, sources predict more industry changes over the next 10 years than seen over the last 50. With a growing global population facing diet-related health problems and increased investments in new technologies to deliver products that deliver both great taste and nutritional benefits, this forecast is no surprise.
The Growing Influence of Nutrition Science
Nutrition science is continuously evolving. New developments in research allow experts to study dietary interventions and evaluate outcomes with more conciseness and accuracy than ever before. As researchers can attest, the first vitamin was isolated and chemically defined in 1926 – less than 100 years ago!
Evaluation of nutrition’s role in complex diseases such as diabetes and obesity did not accelerate considerably until after 2000. This is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has only recently published guidelines on sugar intake for adults and children, recommending reducing added sugar intake to be less than 10% of total intake. These recommendations are based on evidence showing that such a reduction could help lower the risk of overweight conditions, obesity, and tooth decay.
As WHO and other global scientific and regulatory bodies consider new guidelines based on emerging nutrition science, the food industry is quickly mobilizing to leverage advancements in food science and develop products that align with modern dietary guidelines while simultaneously meeting consumer demands. Today’s businesses are also equipped with clear labeling requirement guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which the industry predicts will generate a massive surge of interest amongst formulators looking to reduce or replace sugar in a variety of products.
A Newer Entrant in the Alternative Sweetener Category
A current example of an industry innovation designed to align with new nutrition science is the discovery and application of allulose. Chemically classified as a carbohydrate, allulose is considered a “rare sugar” – a sugar that occurs in very small quantities in nature. Allulose delivers approximately 70% of the sweetness and almost identical taste and the technical attributes of sucrose (sugar) in baked goods, frozen desserts, beverages, and other products.
The difference is that allulose does not impact blood glucose levels, only contributing a mere 0.4 calories per gram. The FDA corroborated this in its recent guidance on allulose labeling, stating: “Due to advances in food technology, novel sugars are now available that are not metabolized and that do not contribute 4 kcal/g to the diet like other traditional sugars. Consequently, we need to consider how information about sugars, like allulose, should be captured on the label.”
Allulose is Exempt from U.S. FDA Sugar Labeling Requirements
The FDA also addressed the importance of considering additional factors beyond chemical composition, stating: “We should consider not only the chemical structure of sugars, but also other evidence including their association with dental caries, their effect on blood glucose and insulin levels, as well as their caloric contribution…” As a reflection of the FDA’s flexible and science-based approach to labeling for enhanced consumer understanding, allulose is exempt from the Total or Added Sugar listing on the Nutrition Facts label. A value of 0.4 kcal/g may be used to calculate its caloric contribution.
In 2012 and 2014, in response to two Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) notifications, the FDA stated that they had no questions regarding the conclusion that allulose is generally recognized as safe for use as a general purpose sweetener in foods and beverages where sugar or fructose would typically be used. (GRAS notifications: 400 and 498.) As allulose has an established history of safe use major companies have been formulating with the sweetener while asking the FDA for clarification on how it should be labeled.
Using Allulose in Formulations
In addition to allulose’s ability to lower the calories, sugar content, and glycemic impact of products, a key benefit is its versatility. Allulose works well in everything from baked goods and confectioneries to yogurt and ice cream. It’s additionally considered a great blending sweetener, and can be combined with other sweeteners such as stevia to achieve the manufacturer’s intended effect.