Last week’s Wall Street Journal featured a special section on “The Future of Food” and the cover story by Annie Gasparro was on “The Search for Sweet”—how food manufacturers are racing to identify or develop new ingredients that can be used to sweeten foods and beverages without adding calories or worrisome chemicals.
The American consumer, you see, has decided that sugar is bad for them. This is hardly surprising, given the steady drumbeat of public health messaging about the evils of sweetened beverages and added sugars. A recent Nielsen poll finds that 22% of Americans are trying to reduce their sugar intake. At the same time, more than half are also trying to avoid artificial sweeteners like Equal (aspartame) and Splenda (sucralose).
Natural low-calorie sweeteners like monkfruit, stevia, and sugar alcohols are more appealing to consumers—but these have limitations as well. Stevia can have a bitter aftertaste. Sugar alcohols can have a weird mouthfeel. Replacing sugar with any of these high-intensity, non-caloric sweeteners can affect the texture, moisture, and volume of processed foods and even shorten their shelf-life.