centre stage for food manufacturers to showcase their innovations in sugar reduction has been set by Public Health England (PHE) with its new guidelines to reduce sugar in food. These guidelines cover categories which contribute the most to children’s total sugar intake, with the aim to remove 5% of the sugar in these food products by August 2017, and 20% by 2020. UK soft drink manufacturers have already been reformulating their products and staying ahead of the soft drinks industry levy coming into force in April 2018. These new guidelines on food, a result of over six months’ discussions with the food industry, public health campaigners and health charities, furthers the United Kingdom’s action to materialise its vision of reducing sugar consumption and childhood obesity.

Many food manufacturers have been reducing portion size to cut down sugar and calories, though some resized products have not been well received by consumers, such as Toblerone’s spaced out chocolate bars at the end of 2016. Portion control can no longer be used on its own to reduce sugar, as sugar limits in the guidance are on the basis of per 100g of product. Product reformulations are key parts in the toolbox as well. 
Mondelēz International (owner of Toblerone) is lagging well behind its peers. Luckily, a number of other food companies are doing better. Nestlé’s new sugar, publicised in November 2016, is said to allow the food and beverage giant to reduce as much as 40% of sugar in its chocolate from 2018 onwards. Chobani has been constantly innovating its yogurt products and it uses combinations of stevia sweeteners, monk fruit extracts and smaller amounts of sugar than previously used in its Simply 100® yogurt range, which are made only of natural ingredients.

While the current focus of the guidelines is to cut down sugar in food, the programme will aim to reduce total calories in a following step. Consequently, food companies will need to look ahead and replace sugar with non-caloric ingredients and avoid ingredients such as fats. A number of naturally sourced sweeteners are available and stevia-based sweeteners have been gaining a lot of attention and traction in the past few years. PureCircle, one of the most innovative producers of stevia ingredients, has been working with food and beverage manufacturers, including Coca-Cola and many others, to reformulate products with different blends of stevia sweeteners. Interest in monk fruit extracts is also on the rise. Could monk fruit extracts be the next sweeteners to come after stevia? And what of protein sweeteners which can be thousands of times sweeter than sugar?

We are right in the midst of a wave of innovations being developed and commercialised to reduce sugar in food and beverages. DouxMatok’s micro-sugar is expected to be on European shelves in 2018, and Nestlé’s new sugar would make a huge impact if it could be used in more than just chocolate. All these developments will ultimately benefit consumers, as concerted efforts between government agencies and the food and beverage industry are one step in the right direction toward the goal of helping nations to achieve sugar reduction.

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