Taste is king with American consumers, who according to new research, shy away from a wide range of consumer products containing low-calorie, high-intensity sweeteners because they feel they do not measure up to sugar. Survey respondents say the sweeteners have an unsatisfactory texture and give off an aftertaste. To them, it does not have the sweet taste or texture of sugar that they’re used to.
That’s a key finding of a national attitudinal survey conducted among 529 American consumers, 18 years or over, conducted in September 2020 by Marketplace, a health and wellness marketing company. The survey was done for BioNeutra North America Inc., a company that developed and manufactures a product that is popular in the food and beverage industry. Its product, VitaFiber® IMO is a lower-calorie sweetener that has a great sugar like taste and mouthfeel that consumers want; can mask the aftertaste of high-intensity sweeteners and offers a smooth texture. It also provides health benefits – something consumers seek. For the food and beverage industry concerned with sugar reduction strategies, the survey provides valuable data on consumer attitudes towards products such ice cream, chocolates, baked goods, snacks, soda, candy, protein bars and sports drinks.
Ice cream offers the industry the biggest growth opportunity because 40% of respondents said they would eat more calorie-reduced ice cream if manufacturers used alternative sweeteners that tasted and felt more like sugar. The respondents found the low-calorie sweeteners provided both an unsatisfactory taste and texture. Consumers also indicated that sugar alternatives that require flavour masking and bulking agents to counteract a lingering aftertaste or lack of mouthfeel do not match their desire for natural and plant-based ingredients. When compared to sugar, more than half of consumers who buy low-calorie sweeteners felt they do not measure up. Nearly half of those consumers felt the sweeteners fail the taste test and simply do not taste like sugar.
Here is how they described their concerns about low-calorie sweeteners in general:
• 43.3% unnatural flavour
• 41.8% unpleasant aftertaste
• 39.4% do not have the right level of sweetness
Close to two thirds of consumers surveyed (60.59%) feared that ice cream including low-calorie sweeteners would have an unpleasant aftertaste; 57.7% expected it would disappoint them and not offer the right level of sweetness and 51.8% expressed a concern about texture. The survey confirmed that the food and beverage industry needs to change formulations and attitudinal impressions to be successful in its sugar reduction efforts.
BioNeutra’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing Sheri O’Brien said: “In our industry the senses rule. Taste and texture are critical. We’re proud of our award-winning lead product. It’s well-suited to be a formulator’s novel ingredient because of its seven key benefits. It provides the right level of sweetness (42% of honey), has great mouthfeel (sugar-like texture) no bitter aftertaste, masks high-intensity sweeteners, bulks, binds and can be heated to 160 degrees C.”
In chocolate formulations, VitaFiber® IMO can be used as a 1 to 1 sugar replacement; its viscosity and clean taste also reduces the need for bulking agents and flavour masking when replacing sugar in candies, ice cream, soft drinks and other applications with upfront sweetness.
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Editor, International Confectionery
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