Should ingredients manufacturers be reducing food additives to meet demand for clean label offerings, or concentrating their efforts on reducing - or totally eliminating - sugar? These are two of the biggest challenges that are currently facing the food and beverage industry, and are prompting companies across all categories to reformulate their products.
Sugar content influences consumers' purchasing decisions. Clean labelling (to the detriment of non-caloric or low-calorie sweeteners) and a backlash against 'artificial' ingredients complete the picture.
The increased pressure on companies to reduce sugar makes developing a clean label version of their products very challenging. One of the most contentious areas in the dispute has been the use of sweeteners.
Sugar reduction is one of the most prominent reformulation issues of the moment, but if companies do not take into account the chemical residues and other unfamiliar ingredients ending up on their labels, they could simply be storing up controversy.
Tosla has developed technology that retains taste and texture while delivering a clean label. Replacing sugar is a more complex challenge in food than it is for drinks, due to the functional and structural properties that no sweetener so far has been able to copy adequately.
It can be a struggle to replace the organoleptic and functional properties of sugar in a new clean label product that aims to have the fewest possible ingredients, as any workable solution usually requires a combination of elements.
While consumers want clean label products with fewer and simpler ingredients, they are also demanding more health benefits from foods and beverages than ever - for example, more protein, antioxidants, energy, vitamins, probiotics, fibre and so on.
Sugar reduction - whether in percentages or total value - will remain a top marketing tool for some time. Sweeteners are an option for beverages, but are unfit for most solid food products, and confectionery, bakery and dairy are extremely challenging categories.
The food industry's interest in clean labelling is real. How additives, residues, and E-numbers fit into this is less clear. So far, the benefits obtained by replacing sugar with multiple combined 'synthetic-type' ingredients were bigger than concerns over 'real' clean labelling.
It is likely that more attention will be paid to this soon and new approaches will be taken. Meanwhile, Tosla is actively involved in developing sugar-reducing techniques while ensuring clean labelling.