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Botanicals For “Snackification” Demands

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Reduce Sugar, Optimize Taste with Botanical Extracts


Layn’s Supply Chain Resiliency

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TruGro Improves Poultry Weight & Gut Health



TruGro AOX Featured in Pet Food Processing Magazine

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Layn Corp. on Oct. 8 introduced its TruGro AOX portfolio of natural antioxidants for use in animal nutrition. TruGro AOX can be used in pet foods, animal feed, premixes, and fats and oils to replace synthetic antioxidants without necessitating a higher amount of the ingredient.

According to the company, Layn’s TruGro AOX line is made with botanical extracts that have been tested and verified for antioxidation efficacy compared to other synthetic antioxidants. The ingredients increase shelf life and delay the oxidation process naturally for a clean label alternative.

Layn entered the premium pet food ingredient market in April 2019 with the launch of TruGro™ byLayn® portfolio of extracts to enhance palatability.

The company operates a Global Innovation Center in China, where scientists and experts in the animal nutrition industry have researched specific ingredients to deliver improved performance and taste profiles for pet nutrition.


Layn Featured in FoodIngredients1st: Sweet escape? Sugar is phased out as sweeteners take center stage, industry experts discuss.

Sugar reduction and zero-calorie demands boost the sweeteners market’s popularity. Click here to read entire article.

17 Jul 2019 —  The use of sweeteners is barreling towards the mainstream. Major industry players are gravitating toward sweetener reformulations and inspiring innovation to respond to the growing need for sugar reduction. From tapping into the plant-based trend to sugar reduction and its linked health benefits, sweeteners are a promising space with the potential to revolutionize the industry status quo. However, industry experts highlight the difficulties in replacing the functional aspect of sugar in products, but a host of attempts to do so have come to the fore.

An Innova Consumer Lifestyle and Attitudes Survey (2018), found that nearly seven out of ten consumers across the countries surveyed (US, UK, France, Germany, China and Brazil) have reduced their sugar intake. This is particularly so among the over 55 age group, with consumers in France and Brazil the most likely to be reducing sugar in their diet. Consumers are also cutting back on sweet snacks more than savory.

“Food and beverage manufacturers are looking for much more than a traditional well-rounded source of sweetness. Sweeteners are now expected to allow brands to make other label claims around calorie and sugar reduction and demonstrate a commitment to a more ‘natural’ or ‘healthy’ product offering,” Shaun Richmond, Global Vice President of Sweeteners at Layn, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

In this space, Layn recently launched Lovia, a platform which combines monk fruit mogrosides with specific steviol glycosides to enable more profound sugar reduction with a sugar-like taste. The plant-based and “free-from” movements are “picking up steam across global food and beverage markets” and monk fruit is becoming a front-running sweetener solution that meets consumer demands, Richmond says.

“Consumers want natural, low sugar and clean label products,” says Primož Artač, CEO of Tosla.“Consumers are seeking better-for-you products. They want natural, low sugar and clean label products. They don’t like to consume ingredients which they are not familiar with and, therefore, have a tendency to reject non-sugar sweeteners,” Primož Artač, CEO of Tosla, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

An array of national policies are also encouraging the use of sweeteners, as obesity and diabetes rates increase globally and are linked to sugar consumption. Public Health England (PHE), for example, has launched two separate reformulation programs to tackle the obesity epidemic – the sugar reduction program and calorie reduction program. The use of alternative sweeteners such as allulose, stevia and sucralose have come to the fore as a solution which allow for calorie reduction and sugar reduction, while still maintaining sweetness. Other alternatives with potential include nitamycin, organic blue agave amber nectar, ultragrain pasta, pectin, isolated soy protein and green mandarin essential oil.

Changing consumer demands
Sugar reduction is becoming a major dietary target for consumers and this is manifesting itself most clearly in the Baby Boomer demographic (born 1946-1964). Innova Market Insights research shows that one in two US Boomers have been reducing their sugar intake or buying more reduced-sugar products, while two in five are cutting back on their consumption of sweet snacks.

This trend is supported by research into the typical shopping basket. “Boomers are below-average purchasers of certain sweet products such as chocolate, desserts and ice cream, and snack bars,” says Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights.

Katharina Pueller, Director, Natural Sweetener Business at Sweegen, tells FoodIngredientsFirst that manufacturers will increasingly adapt to the evolving consumer demand for healthier sweeteners in their formulations. Moreover, consumers will look closely at ingredient labels and consciously pick products sweetened with healthy, non-GMO, plant-based sweeteners, she notes. The company’s latest innovation is stevia sweetener Bestevia e+, a blend of novel steviol glycosides containing Reb E, that has a sugar-like taste at a price equivalent to sugar.

“Stevia has gained very favorable awareness among consumers in many regions. It is calorie-free and generates zero glycemic effect, tapping into the trend of reducing sugar with a plant-sourced solution. It is ideal to be used in most food and beverages applications that Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has approved,”  Dr. Mel Jackson, CSO of Sweet Green Fields, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“Globally, the use of stevia leaf sweetener in food and beverage products grew at an accelerated pace in 2018,”  Maga Malsagov, PureCircle’s CEO, tells FoodIngredientsFirst. PureCircle offers a range of stevia leaf sweeteners, including Reb M. “These sweeteners help beverage and food companies increase their offerings of zero- and low-calorie products without sacrificing taste,” he adds.

Challenging aspects in formulation
Sugar plays a multi-dimensional role in formulations, not only as a sweetener but also as a bulking agent, preservative, flavor enhancer, coloring agent, viscosity modifier and anticoagulant, according to Artač. Tosla’s CEO also notes that the industry is struggling to replace sugar as various other additives are needed to cover all the functional roles sugar plays in a food system.

According to Richmond, replicating the rounded sweetness of sugar with plant-based high-intensity sweeteners requires expertise in formulation and an understanding of the synergies these sweeteners have with other ingredients and limitations within certain formulations.

Sugar plays a multi-dimensional role in formulations, not only as a sweetener but also as a bulking agent and preservative.For instance, baking can be a challenge as stevia and monk fruit don’t bulk and brown as sugar does but, with the right technical expertise, companies have been successful in launching baked goods on the market that carry label claims that consumers desire, while also delivering an enjoyable taste profile.

Bakery is a challenge for stevia sweeteners,” Pueller notes. “Sugar has many functions in bakeries, it not only provides sweetness but also provides a majority of the bulk and helps with browning. Fillers can be used to compensate for that bulk.”

“Sugar reduction doesn’t mean that sugar can be simply replaced by a zero or low-calorie sweetener. The functions of sugar need to be taken care of by applying polyols and fibers that provide the bulk, gelatin that builds back mouthfeel and other ingredients,” Jackson highlights.

Recently, Sweet Green Fields and Tate & Lyle jointly launched their newest product innovation – ZOLESSE Natural Flavor. ZOLESSE is a glycosylated steviol glycoside that enables manufacturers to maintain a short ingredients list, Jackson says. “When it is used in combination with stevia sweeteners it modifies the overall taste and sweetness giving a more rounded profile with reduced bitterness and less lingering aftertaste, helping formulators to achieve the taste they want.”

Optimal applications for sweeteners
Stevia and monk fruit are well suited to many applications but beverage, dairy, tabletop and sports nutrition applications are seeing the majority of growth, Richmond notes. “Trends such as low- and mid-calorie, zero or reduced sugar, as well as the rapidly growing ketogenic and plant-based trends,  are all popular reasons for increased use of sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit,” he says.

From an NPD point of view, beverages are easiest to work with, says Artač. As sugar is mostly added to beverages only to sweeten them; it makes it easy to replace it with a non-sugar sweetener.

Malsagov says that PureCircle’s stevia leaf ingredients can be used in a variety of food and beverage categories including carbonated soft drinks, flavored milk, yogurt, iced tea, juice, confectionery, sports drinks and tabletop sweeteners, to name a few. There is also significantly increasing potential in ice cream and baked goods, he notes.

What’s next
Artač believes that the industry will continue to see new and exciting sweeteners on the market, but sugar will forever remain the “gold standard.” “I think the idea for innovators is to imitate sugars’ functional properties as much as possible, while satisfying market needs, such as naturalness, affordability and low metabolic response,” he says.

High-intensity sweeteners are seeing significant growth in the food and beverage industry. Key suppliers are making significant investments in understanding and developing different minor glycosides and mogrosides that deliver an improved taste profile over previous stevia and monk fruit products available. “Sweetener platforms that use these new solutions in proprietary blends and with other natural flavors will continue to deliver improvements and stretch the capabilities of plant-based high-intensity sweeteners across many different applications,” Richmond notes.

“We anticipate food and beverage companies will continue to increase their use of stevia as their go-to, non-GMO, sweetening solution, as well as using stevia as a functional ingredient. This will provide consumers a great-tasting, plant-based ingredient they desire,” says Malsagov.

Hurdles in formulation exist, despite sweeteners’ already wide use but the industry is expected to respond with more innovation. The market is ripe for sugar replacements and the potential for growth seems more significant than ever before.


Layn Leverages Botanical Expertise in the U.S. CBD Market

Elaine Yu, president of Layn USA, discussed the differences in U.S. and Chinese hemp production and regulation. Click here to view full interview.

Layn unveiled the launch of a U.S.-based CBD manufacturing facility, set to be completed in fall of 2020.
Layn USA President Elaine Yu outlined the company’s decision to work within the U.S. on this new venture, and how hemp production in the U.S. and China differ. 
Looking ahead, the company’s new CBD line will include full spectrum oil, distillates, and isolates. 


Heather Granato talks about Layn and the CBD Launch on the podcast- Natural Products INSIDER

The Layn portion of the podcast is about a minute long, and begins at about 18:50. Click here to listen.


Food Business News Highlights Layn’s New Investment in CBD

On the expo floor, Layn Corp. launched a new line of C.B.D. ingredients even though the F.D.A. has yet to give definitive regulations on products with C.B.D.

The company supplies C.B.D. oil, C.B.D. distillate and crystallized isolate, which offers the purest C.B.D. People who stopped by Layn’s booth at IFT19 worked in various food and beverage categories, including baked foods, chocolate and gummies, said Elaine Yu, president of Layn USA, Newport Beach, Calif.

The company has an advantage over other C.B.D. suppliers in that Layn USA already has experience in the food industry, she said. The company for more than 20 years has taken extractions from stevia and monk fruit to use as sweeteners.

Layn USA is part of China-based Guilin Layn Natural Ingredients Corp. As part of a $60 million investment, Layn will build a U.S. manufacturing facility that should be completed in the fall of 2020. It will be capable of processing a minimum of 5,000 tons of hemp biomass per year, which will yield 160 tons of C.B.D. and 290 tons of oil. Layn is in the final stages of selecting a location for the facility, which probably will be in the Midwest, Ms. Yu said.

Ms. Yu said she recognized the regulatory situation of C.B.D needs to become clearer.

“There is a long path to go,” she said.


TruGro™ by Layn® Featured in Pet Food Supplement Magazine

Layn Supports Three Key Pillars of Pet Nutrition

Layn has launched into the pet nutrition space, targeting specific pet health needs, and pleasing pets and their owners with its high-quality, natural, plant-based ingredients. Its new pet food additive platforms can improve palatability, and address three important areas of pet health – gut health, cell oxidation and weight control.

Gut Health

A healthy gut is the foundation of health for pets. As the largest immune organ, more than 80% of the immune system resides in the gut. Proper gut health helps to ensure that pets are able to digest and absorb valuable nutrients from the food and supplements they eat. The TruGro GH pet food additive platform that includes natural solutions based in botanical extracts that help maintain intestinal barrier function and health for improving animal welfare. The platform is based in botanical extracts that help strengthen the gut microbiome to provide a myriad of life-supporting functions that can help pets live their healthiest days.

Cell Oxidation

Oxidation can damage mitochondria, cell membranes and other mechanisms and structures essential to the cell. This kind of damage underlies many diseases. The TruGro AOX platform is based in botanical extracts with antioxidant capabilities, targeted at reducing cell oxidation.


Obesity is a significant risk factor for many life-threatening diseases that affect pets. Body weight is a balancing act of “energy in” (food) versus “energy out” (activity). To achieve weight loss, food consumption needs to be decreased and/or the amount of activity must be increased. But, it’s best to prevent weight gain in the first place since weight loss can be more difficult to achieve. The TruGro SW pet food additive platform includes plant-based sweeteners and flavors, adding palatability to the food and helping to control eater activity.

The new pet nutrition ingredients are available as part of Layn’s animal nutrition brand, TruGro™ by Layn®. The new product line includes polyphenol & flavonoid rich extracts, palatability ingredients and other specialty extracts from botanicals including grape seed, green tea, rosemary and others.

For more information, visit Expanding CBD Applications: Layn’s US $60 million Processing Investment Suggests Further Mainstreaming

The company debuted its new line of CBD ingredients at last week’s IFT19 expo in New Orleans, US

11 Jun 2019 — A new line of cannabidiol (CBD) ingredients by Guilin Layn Natural Ingredients Corp. (“Layn”), a global producer best known for its plant-based sweeteners, debuted at last week’s IFT19 Food Expo in New Orleans, US (June 3 to 5). The company has invested an estimated US $60 million in a new US-based CBD manufacturing facility, expected to be completed in autumn of 2020. The facility is expected to have the capacity to process a minimum benchmark of 5,000 tons of hemp biomass per year, which will yield 160 tons of high purity CBD and 290 tons of full spectrum oil annually. Layn is currently in the process of completing the filing procedures to receive approval for this project.

The industry has been keeping a close eye on the regulatory developments around the compound that shows no sign of slowing down. Most recently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public hearing on May 31 on products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, in an attempt to create “legal pathways” for the compounds use in food and beverage applications. However, the hearing left a lot of unanswered questions and industry is still pushing for legal clarity. Despite the legal gray area, the entrance of an ingredient supplier such as Layn into the arena suggests a true mainstreaming. 

“We chose to invest in the CBD industry because it is a trending hot topic,” Elaine Yu, CEO of Layn, tells FoodIngredientsFirst on the floor of IFT19 (in photo). “Even though this market seems crowded, not very many of these players come from this industry – many are ‘outsiders’ like farmers or extraction equipment manufacturers. From Layn’s perspective as an ingredients manufacturer, we are utilizing our 20+ years of experience and expertise in extraction, agriculture management, sustainable supply chains and understanding food safety requirements.” 

Layn will make its CBD ingredients available in a number of forms, including full-spectrum oil, broad spectrum oil, CBD distillate and crystallized isolate, offering the purest CBD.

Yu highlights the emergent potential of CBD in food and beverage formats, where historically, companies have been more inclined towards pills, tinctures or topical delivery formats. At IFT19, Layn showcased two beverage concepts: a cucumber-flavored anti-inflammation drink infused with CBD (roughly 21mg per 200mg serving) and Gotu kola, using stevia and monk fruit as zero-calorie sweeteners; and a fruit-flavored anxiety-relief drink infused with CBD and Rhodiola extract.

“In the nutraceuticals segment, CBD is commonly used in tinctures, oils and creams – it has been more about topical use and not too much about taste. We want to demonstrate that CBD can be used in a wider range of applications. What were are showcasing here is CBD as the main ingredient – integrating it with our other portfolio, which encompasses plant-based sweeteners and natural ingredients for different functions. We are currently working on solutions regarding the water solubility of our oil products, as well as taste challenges,” says Yu.

As an increasing number of consumers incorporate CBD into their daily wellness regimes, an analysis of buyers’ preferences by cannabis industry specialist High Yield Insights reveals that in addition to vapes, oils and topics, the most common delivery methods of CBD are “edibles” such as baked goods and gummies.

Layn has partnered with farmers that have been growing hemp since the US Congress legalized low-THC (the psychoactive component in cannabis) hemp, under the Farm Bill, which was passed in December 2018. Once hemp was legalized, many small industry players jumped at the chance to use CBD derived from hemp in value-added wellness products and industry saw the launch of an array of CBD-infused offerings, such as wines, waters, edibles and topicals.

“Our world-class R&D team has developed advanced botanical extraction technology that we are now applying to hemp farming and CBD extraction,” says Frank Xie, Board Director of Layn. “We have also taken great care in building a sustainable supply chain for the ingredients we offer and are committed to carrying this expertise into our CBD line.”

But even with consumer interest in CBD booming, and the loosening of corresponding regulatory restrictions, certain challenges in the nascent market have been made apparent in recent months. According to a recent Rabobank report, imbalances in the supply chain of hemp in the US could potentially lead to a future market “crash,” and the existing legal ambiguities are a significant hurdle to the proliferation of related products. Moreover, the emergence of synthetic CBD – marketed as a “safer, low-cost and non-toxic” alternative to naturally sourced CBD – may itself challenge the integrity of the extract.

Synthetic CBD also received a boost in its medical standing. A study published earlier last month, conducted by chemists at the University of California, Davis, US, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Reading, UK, found that a synthetic, non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD) alternative, 8,9-Dihydrocannabidiol(H2CBD) was found to be as effective in treating the frequency and severity of seizures in rats, pointing towards a potential therapeutic application for humans.

According to their report, the synthetic CBD alternative is easier to purify than a plant extract, eliminating the need to use agricultural land for hemp cultivation (making it cheaper), and can avoid legal implications surrounding cannabis-related products. Their work was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

With these existing challenges to the CBD industry, whether the cannabis extract has proven its worth as a consumer staple has yet to be seen. Layn has partnered with specialists in the food and beverage, health and nutrition, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, personal care and animal nutrition companies in over 60 global territories. The company announces that it will be continuing to work with many of these manufacturers to develop new applications for industrial hemp and the development of new hemp-based businesses. Layn expands into CBD market with $60M investment

The company known for its high-intensity sweeteners is bringing food industry knowledge and knowhow to produce ingredients out of the substance. Click here to read full article on

NEW ORLEANS — At first glance, the idea of Layn Corp — best known for its plant-based high-intensity sweeteners — entering the CBD market is somewhat baffling. 

But to Elaine Yu, the China-based company’s U.S. president, the move makes perfect sense. The company’s expertise is in culturing tissues for plants such as stevia and monkfruit, contracting with farmers to grow the plants, then processing the finished products into extracts for use in food, drinks, cosmetics and supplements.

“If you see what we have been doing, hemp fits in our core competency very well,” Yu told Food Dive at the Institute of Food Technologists conference this week where the company announced its next ingredient line. “This is our expertise for 20-plus years. Now we just need to apply that experience and expertise into hemp production, which we see is greatly needed in this industry.”

Layn is making a major commitment to CBD with a $60 million investment into the market. The company will be building a processing factory for the ingredient — the company’s fourth factory overall, and its first in the United States.

The company is in the final stages of negotiating a site for the factory, which Yu said will likely be in the midwestern United States. Layn will be able to process at least 5,000 tons of hemp biomass in a year, which the company says will produce 160 tons of high-purity CBD and 290 tons of full-spectrum oil a year. Layn already has contracts with two hemp growers for an initial supply, Yu said. The factory should be in operation next fall.

While the CBD industry is still new — and largely unregulated — the players getting into the market have varied experience. Many are farmers with expertise limited to growing.

Layn is unique in that it can take the product from seed to shelf, Yu said. It also knows the process to extract a botanical substance to get its maximum potency, and how to work with food and beverage applications. Yu said they have worked to get around the challenges plants such as stevia present. This knowhow can help with turning CBD into extracts that can be successful in food and drink.

Although CBD is on the radar of many companies in the food and beverage industry, Yu noted the IFT show floor — where companies showcase their newest ingredients, processing technology, packaging and traceability solutions — had relatively few companies dealing with cannabis.

“We come from the food industry,” Yu said. “You know there are so many players, but you don’t see them so much at IFT because we are coming from the food area. We understand … what is the food safety requirement. How to deal with a customer audit, an FDA audit, in terms of your quality and manufacturing standard to the market it demands. … We have the expertise and the knowledge, and we can provide the customer with a high-quality sustainable food ingredient.” 

Yu said interest in the company’s new line of business at IFT was overwhelming. They had brought a substantial amount of literature on hemp and CBD that was all given out on the first day of the three-day show. At Layn’s booth, they gave out samples of a sweet CBD beverage made from many of their ingredients to demonstrate what they could do. The shotglass-sized samples were quickly snatched up by attendees, barely spending any time on the counter of the booth.

Although CBD is currently in the beginning stages of FDA regulation, Yu said there is already a market for the ingredient, and Layn wants to be involved as a supplier. However, given the need for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine regulations — coupled with the time it will take to build the CBD factory and get it operational — Yu said now is a good moment to enter the market in preparation for the future.

“In this 18 months right now, we are doing more research,” she said. “Working with customers, help them to get ready for when that final approval is happening. Then, they have a product to launch, ready to go.”


Layn Launches Plans to Invest $60 million in U.S. CBD Production

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., June 3, 2019 – Layn Corp., a global producer of premium-quality, plant-based sweeteners, functional botanical extracts and animal nutrition ingredients is launching its new line of CBD ingredients at IFT19, which takes place in New Orleans, LA June 3rd – 5th.


Layn’s CBD manufacturing facility is expected to be completed in Fall 2020. The facility will have the capability of processing a minimum of 5,000 tons of hemp biomass per year, which will yield 160 tons of high purity CBD and 290 tons of full spectrum oil annually. The project’s total investment will be an estimated $60 million, most of which will go into construction of the new U.S. based facility. Layn is currently in the process of completing the filing procedures to receive approval for this project.

“Layn has over 20 years of experience in biomass farming management and our world-class R&D team has developed advanced botanical extraction technology that we are now applying to hemp farming and CBD extraction,” said Frank Xie,

EVP, Board Director of Guilin Layn Natural Ingredients Corp. “We have also taken great care in building a sustainable supply chain for the ingredients we offer and are committed to carrying this expertise into our CBD line.”

Layn has partnered with farmers that have been growing hemp since the Farm Bill passed in 2014. With this partnership, in Fall 2019, Layn will offer CBD products from large scale farming operations with the ability to utilize cutting edge cultivation techniques within both organic and conventional certified hemp.

Layn will make its CBD ingredients available in a number of forms, including:

  • Full Spectrum Oil
  • Broad Spectrum Oil
  • CBD Distillate
  • Crystallized Isolate offering the purest CBD

Layn has been cultivating in the plant extraction industry for nearly 20 years.  It has partnered and carried out business with hundreds of food & beverage, health & nutrition, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, personal care and animal nutrition companies in more than 60 countries and regions around the world. Layn is working with many of these manufacturers to meet the demands for applications of industrial hemp, and the development of new hemp-based businesses.

For more information, visit Layn in booth #601 at IFT.

 About Layn Corp:

Layn Corp. is a global leader in the vertically integrated production of premium-quality, plant-based sweeteners, flavors and botanicals. Founded in 1995, Layn pioneered the natural high-intensity sweetener industry, and has been advancing its innovative ingredients for over two decades. Layn’s ingredients are uniquely designed to meet the needs of global food, beverage and nutraceutical manufacturers. Its portfolio of monk fruit, stevia extracts and other functional botanicals, delivers superior taste profiles, a focus on sustainability, and proprietary formulations to satisfy a broad range of specific applications. Visit
 Plant-Based Sweeteners Offer Natural Appeal

A range of naturally-sourced sweeteners help consumers and formulators reduce sugar content while maximizing flavor. Click here to read full article.

Global obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organization, while the number of people with diabetes rose from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. Scientists and medical professionals have linked these alarming health trends, as well as other health issues like metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and fatty liver, to increased sugar consumption, largely from added sugar in foods and sweet drinks.

Whereas sodium was once the “boogieman” of good health, sugar has stepped in to take its place. Market research from Mintel showed that 35% of U.S. consumers believe food and drink companies should be doing more to reduce the amount of sugar in products, while 34% also agreed companies should make it easier to understand how much sugar is in products (Mintel Sugar and Sweeteners – US, December 2016).

Some people are trying to cut out sugar altogether. Based on combined polls from 2014, 2015, and 2018, Gallup found that 51% of adults reported avoiding sugar. Older people (56% of those 65 and up, and 53% of those 50-64; compared to 30-49 at 52%, and 18-29 at 44%), Hispanics (55% compared to 50% of black, and 51% of white survey respondents); and college graduates (62%, compared to 47% of non-college grads) were all more likely to shun sugar.

“Consumers are paying closer attention to both sugar and artificial sweeteners in their products than ever before,” observed Julie Johnson, general manager, HealthFocus International. “Nearly half of U.S. shoppers (48%) said that ‘lower in sugar’ is extremely or very important on labels, an increase of 12 points since 2014. Conversely, 52% find ‘no artificial sweeteners’ equally as important and has seen nearly the same growth.”

Labeling & Regulation
Upcoming changes to the Nutrition Facts Label in the U.S. is one reason food and beverage manufacturers are clamoring to reel in sugar content. Based on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) mandatory policy, added sugar content will need to be explicitly disclosed to consumers on product packaging. Set to take effect between 2020 and 2021, the new Nutrition Facts Label will reflect the grams and percent Daily Value (DV) of added sugar content, which would ideally help consumers limit calories from added sugar.

A recently published study in the journal Circulation suggested these updated labels could be a cost-effective way to boost Americans’ health, while financially benefitting the country’s healthcare system and society. Researchers suggested that added sugar labeling could prevent or postpone approximately 1 million cases of cardiometabolic disease—including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes—over a 20-year period. Furthermore, when paired with industry efforts to reduce sugar content in anticipation of the new labels, this number could be closer to 3 million.

Healthcare savings could also be significant. Added sugar labeling was estimated to save $31 billion in net healthcare costs and $61.9 billion in societal costs. Again, if food reformulation also reduced sugar content, the U.S. could save even more—$57.6 billion in net healthcare costs and $113.2 billion in societal costs.

Shaun Richmond, global vice president of sweeteners for Layn USA, Newport Beach, CA, sees these changes as a step in the right direction. “We believe that anything that allows consumers to stop and take a look at their overall diet and the foods and beverages that they consume is a positive step,” he said. Richmond perceived measures such as state sugar taxes, changes to the Nutrition Facts Label, and other regulatory measures around sugar consumption, as positive actions that will ultimately “increase consumer awareness and act as a catalyst for conversation around how consumers balance their own and their family’s diet.” In a culture where consumers are bombarded by convenient and indulgent foods and beverages, Richmond asserted “these measures can help to ensure nutrition and dietary balance remain part of the conversation.”

While these regulations are designed to support Americans in making more informed decisions about what they’re consuming, such changes can create “confusion and challenges for food manufacturers and marketers pertaining to ingredients selection,” said Amy Targan, president of Malt Products Corporation, a Saddle Brook, NJ-based manufacturer of malted barley extract and other natural sweeteners. While she stressed “the importance of balanced nutrition” Targan asserted that “all sweeteners aren’t created equal.” That said, she believes “sweeteners such as naturally derived grain extracts should be viewed differently by regulators in terms of the ‘added sugars’ label category, as these ingredients provide important nutrients above and
beyond flavoring.”

Discussing government intervention in sugar consumption, Andy Ohmes, global director of high intensity sweeteners for Cargill, Wayzata, MN, said “we all have a stake in improving consumer health, and if we work collectively to better understand the root causes that are driven by science, not unsubstantiated opinions, we can create transparent solutions that lead to sustained improvements in health.”

He called Nutrition Fact Labels an important source of information, and expressed support for “plans for public education and awareness activities that can help consumers understand the new labels and how to use them.”

Ohmes added, “The educational efforts put forth by the government agencies and other stakeholders will be equally critical to ensure what is put on the label translates into changing consumer behaviors.”

The Sugar Reduction Trend
Johnson of HealthFocus International called the category for sweeteners, including sugar, “the perfect storm of conflicting consumer needs.” Key issues impacting the space include the desire to reduce calories and carbohydrates, and reign in weight; the trend of clean eating and avoidance of artificial ingredients; consumer desire for formulas supporting sustained, natural energy (particularly among those with children); and above all, consumer demand for appealing taste experiences.

“Because of this, all sweeteners have been under intense consumer scrutiny, and unlike the low-sodium trend, which was relatively short-lived and non-transformational, the factors impacting sweeteners are creating significant and long-term changes in how consumers view and use these products,” explained Johnson.” She said these conflicting needs will drive consumer decisions at the shelf. “At a very basic level, even though they may not always act accordingly, sugar reduction is all about consumers trying to be healthier. According to the HealthFocus Global Sweetener Report, 95% of shoppers around the world believe that reducing sugar makes foods and beverages at least somewhat healthier, so it makes sense that this has also garnered the attention of manufacturers.”

The sugar alternatives that rated highest with consumers were natural ingredients such as honey and fruit juice, said Johnson, despite not necessarily being the most commonly used. Further representative of consumers’ conflicted mindsets surrounding sweetness, she observed “consumers say that they don’t always want a replacement sweetener, but rather products that are less sweet or use other non-sweet flavors, such as cucumber basil infused water, for example.”

Katharina Pueller, director of the natural sweetener business for Sweegen, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, suggested consumers have become more aware of the detrimental effects of consuming too much sugar. “More and more, they are now checking ingredient labels for sugar content, and in the end choosing healthier products with lower added sugar content.” She said natural sweeteners are moving in to take sugar’s place.

The International Food Information Council 2018 Food & Health Survey study found that 77% of respondents were trying to limit or avoid sugars in general, noted Cargill’s Ohmes. “That same survey found six in 10 respondents view added sugars negatively,” he added. “Lifestyle trends focused on healthier choices and ‘clean’ eating, coupled with regulatory mandates and media messaging linking excessive sugar consumption to health concerns, are some of the key influencers driving the growing demand for sugar-reduction solutions.”

Despite consumers’ growing aversion to sugar, they nonetheless have an uncompromising demand for taste. Ohmes said for brands to be successful they must balance indulgence and appealing flavor with consumers’ growing enthusiasm for products with improved nutritional profiles.

“The consumption of added sugars by adults in the U.S. has increased by more than 30% over the last three decades,” said Richmond of Layn USA, citing a 2014 study published in Obesity Society. Meanwhile, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that during this same period the rate of obesity skyrocketed, with over 71% of the adult U.S. being either overweight or obese. “Many are drawing the conclusion that there is at least some correlation, whether strong or otherwise, between the increase in sugar intake and our growing problem of weight management,” stated Richmond. “Consumers more than ever are reading the labels of their foods and beverages with a wary eye for ingredients that they may not have focused on in the past. Sugar is increasingly at the top of that list.”

Climbing obesity rates in the U.S. and abroad have made empty calories from sugar and carbohydrates an “easy target for nutritionist, health policymakers, and NGOs,” commented Targan of Malt Products Corporation. She suggested that refined sugars and syrups can cause a variety of health issues, when by contrast “holistic natural sweeteners such as malt barley extracts provide proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants along with pleasant flavors and optimal, often less intense sweetness.” Additionally she suggested there is a growing awareness of and interest in functional sweeteners such as grain extracts and molasses due to their micronutrient content. 

Natural vs. Artificial
In their quest to avoid sugar, consumers are seeking out natural or plant-based formulas to fill in the flavor gap. In general, consumers are more partial to easily identifiable, naturally-derived ingredients when compared with the complexly-named, lab-created synthetic formulas.

Market research from Mintel demonstrated this, as 35% of U.S. consumers agreed that artificial sweeteners are bad for health, while just 19% agreed that artificial sweeteners taste as good as sugar in food/drink products. 

Furthermore, 26% of U.S. consumers said they would like to see more food/drinks which use naturally sourced sugar substitutes (such as stevia). Nineteen percent said they are purchasing more foods and drinks containing natural sweeteners such as monk fruit or stevia, while 16% said they would pay more for such products.

While consumer interest in naturally-sourced sweeteners has piqued, Richmond of Layn USA believes there will always be competition from artificial sweeteners. “Both options offer sugar and calorie reduction, which is important to a large number of consumers,” he said. “The balance has certainly shifted in recent years with most food and beverage companies acknowledging a consumer preference for a more natural product. While this is solid progress for both food and beverage companies and sweetener producers, plant-based sweeteners still have work ahead.”

He stressed the need for consumer education about the benefits of natural formulas, as a large portion of the general U.S. population is accustomed to artificial sweeteners. “They may not prefer them or actively search for products sweetened with artificial sweeteners, but they are accustomed to the taste profile and may even consume them regularly in their favorite foods and beverages.” Richmond said that while natural ingredients like stevia and monk fruit show great potential, there are still large numbers of consumers that have either never heard of them, or may have tried a product sweetened with them years ago when the taste profile didn’t deliver. “For this reason, suppliers and food and beverage companies must focus on educating consumers and ensuring that they experience the food and beverages showcasing stevia and monk fruit with the well-rounded sweetness that is now possible,” he urged. “When this is done well, we continue to see significant changes in consumer perception and product adoption over artificially sweetened products.”

Johnson of HealthFocus International said consumer health objectives are key factors when they are selecting a sugar replacement. “If they are cutting sugar to lose weight or reduce calorie intake, they may replace it with an artificial sweetener that is calorie free. However, if they are trying to substitute for a more natural alternative, they may reach for maple syrup or coconut palm sugar. Both natural sugar alternatives and artificial sweeteners still have a place, but knowing your audience is critical in deciding which direction to go in a product.”

In its USA Trend Study, HealthFocus asked consumers to rate a list of sweeteners as either “good,”  “bad” or “neither good nor bad,” explained Johnson. “Good” ratings aren’t growing significantly, which she said is demonstrative of an overall negative perception of sweeteners. The top growth for “good” ratings was monk fruit, which was up by just four points. Other natural sweeteners that showed modest growth were lesser known and niche in the market. “‘Bad’ ratings for sweeteners has seen more growth in recent years—as more people are becoming aware of coconut palm sugar, a greater proportion feel it is ‘bad.’ Sugar has seen the second highest growth in negative rating with now 30% of consumers viewing it as ‘bad.’”

Among the key forces driving consumer demand for natural sweeteners is the concept of clean label, as well as calls for sugar reduction, observed Ohmes of Cargill. He said these trends show no sign of slowing down. “Consumers want reduced-sugar foods and beverages made with familiar ingredients—but not at the expense of great taste. Taste is, and will remain, the single biggest driver of purchase intent.” Fortunately, he suggested formulators have more tools available today than ever before, “as brands strive to balance consumers’ sometimes-competing-demands for products made with familiar, natural ingredients that offer improved nutritional profiles—all without sacrificing taste.”

Sweetness, Without Sugar
As more consumers express interest in natural sugar alternatives, the marketplace is presented with a variety of ingredients to meet specific sweetening needs.

“In addition to ingredients like stevia, agave, coconut palm sugar, and monk fruit, which are already nearing mainstream awareness, other natural-based sweeteners are emerging like syrups derived from dates, brown rice, yacon, and sorghum,” observed Johnson of HealthFocus International. She suggested a key advantage of many of these ingredients is that most consumers would not object to their inclusion on Nutrition Facts Labels, as they are natural and recognizable, and therefore considered “safe.” However, Johnson said issues such as cost, product formulation, and taste issues have prevented them from truly going mainstream. “What we see in the near and intermediate term are consumers changing their habits by choosing less sweet or other flavors,” she predicted.

Data from Mintel showed erythritol was on the rise, with food and drink launches including the ingredient doubling between June 2012 and May 2017. As an example, researchers pointed to the popularity of Halo Top ice cream as a product turning to natural sweeteners like erythritol in a successful way. The brand promotes itself as a low-sugar, low-calorie, clean label confectionery. Its website explained the formulation by promoting its use of “organic stevia…that’s native to Paraguay” along with “erythritol, which though it has a rather scientific-sounding name, is actually another all-natural sweetener found in fruits like pears and grapes.” Halo Top goes on to specify that while erythritol is “technically a sugar alcohol, it’s unlike the others because…[it] doesn’t affect blood glucose or cause bloating.”

Mintel also found consumers favoring stevia, particularly within the juice category. The market research firm found purchase intent was higher with juice drinks with stevia (36%) compared to all juice drinks (32%). Those aged 18-34 were most likely to purchase stevia-sweetened juice (49%), followed by 37% of 35-54 year olds, and 28% of consumers 55+. With fruit juice sales slumping in recent years due to high sugar content and perceptions of unhealthiness, this could be an opportunity for manufacturers.

Mintel also found increased interest in xylitol, as marketers have begun promoting its plant-based origins. The research firm explained the ingredient can be processed from trees, such as birch trees and other hardwoods; or created by an industrial process that converts the plant fiber xylan into xylitol. Mintel suggested that labeling terminology linking the ingredient back to its natural source could appeal to health-conscious consumers.

Food scientists at the University of Illinois recently discovered a strain of yeast that can metabolize lactose, the sugar in dairy products, into tagatose. Tagatose can be used as a natural sweetener, which provides less than half the calories of table sugar. Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study from professor of food science and human nutrition Yong-Su Jin explained “Tagatose is a sweetener that exhibits almost identical tastes and textures of sucrose, or table sugar. However, tagatose has many fewer calories than sucrose—about 40% of sucrose. In addition, it does not increase blood glucose levels as much as sucrose or fructose.”

Targan of Malt Products Corporation pointed to the success of non-caloric or low-calorie sweeteners such as allulose, isomalto-oligosaccharides, and hydrolyzed fibers. “They help provide control of added sugar and calories in food where they are used,” she explained. “However, it must be said that consumers are increasingly interested in pantry-friendly ingredients, meaning they’ll lean toward sweeteners whose names seem rooted in nature rather than a laboratory.”

Targan added that stevia, monk fruit, and inulin are popular, however, careful flavor considerations must be made when formulating with these ingredients. “They are suitable choices in some applications, but typically cannot fully stand up as an ideal substitute,” she explained. For example, stevia and monk fruit don’t “provide bulking, binding, and stability benefits in baked goods,” while in other goods, “the flavor profile simply isn’t comparable.”

Sweegen offers the stevia sweetener, Bestevia e+, which is a blend of different stevia molecules. “This blend contains a rare steviol glycoside called Reb E, which gives it a very special sugar-like taste,” explained Pueller. “This blend was created for beverages but really tastes great in all applications.”

Cargill, in a joint partnership with DSM under the name Avansya, developed EverSweet, a stevia formula that aims to provide sweetness without bitterness or a licorice aftertaste commonly associated with the sweetener. Ohmes said EverSweet sweetener allows food and beverage makers to “create great-tasting products with even deeper calorie reductions.” The ingredient offers “a more rounded taste profile with a faster onset of sweetness,” and enables up to 100% sugar replacement.

“In developing EverSweet, our scientists invested more than 300,000 hours studying the stevia leaf, searching for the optimal balance of sweetness and taste,” explained Ohmes. “Through this research, they found that two glycosides in the stevia plant, Reb M and Reb D, offered heightened sweetness and a taste closer to real sugar. While these glycosides are rare in the stevia plant, we produce them through fermentation.”

Ohmes said Cargill believes stevia and erythritol, often used in combination, are two of the best tools currently available for sugar reduction, across food and beverage applications. “Erythritol, which looks and tastes like sugar, is often paired with high-intensity sweeteners because it has a sugar-like aftertaste, and helps mask off-notes and replaces sugar’s bulk,”
he explained.

Meanwhile stevia product launches reached more than 4,300 new products globally in 2017, according to Innova Market Insights data. “Consumers’ positive perceptions of the plant-based sweetener clearly contributed to that growth,” said Ohmes. “According to Cargill’s proprietary online research of 13,000 consumers, when compared to 12 of the leading low/no calorie sweeteners, consumers ranked stevia leaf extract as the most healthful, as well as having the most positive perception on the label.”

Richmond of Layn USA said sweetener platforms using a combination of steviol glycosides and monk fruit’s mogrosides offer significant promise. Blended formulas such as this “have changed what is now possible in sweetener solutions for food and beverages with significantly reduced or zero sugar, and no artificial sweeteners.” He noted that products using a blend of these sweeteners are able to more closely mirror a sugar-like sweetness. “Other sweetener products that have seen a significant increase in interest recently include monk fruit juice concentrate, which has launched in a number of noteworthy brands in the last year.”

Flavor Obstacles
Non-sugar sweeteners—even natural ones—possess different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to formulating foods and beverages.

“Each sweetener has its own characteristics,” explained Richmond, “and a talented formulator can come very close to replicating that sugar-like sweetness and mouthfeel.” He stressed that formulators need to recognize the advantages and limitations of each sweetener in order to capitalize on potential flavor synergies. “This requires a significant investment of time and resources if you’re not working with the right provider that offers a sweetener platform designed for specific applications,” he cautioned.

Targan of Malt Products Corporation said the main challenge will always be taste. Others issues include “functionality benefits such as binding, bulking, and water activity control; environment and sustainability impact; and ‘pantry friendliness’ (i.e., easily recognizable ingredients), which can be a real problem, especially for non-natural sugar alternatives.”

Ohmes of Cargill suggested reformulating existing food and drink recipes to reduce sugar can be difficult. “Reformulation of foods and beverages to reduce sugar without sacrificing flavor, physical and textural attributes, cost, functionality, sustainability, and addressing the clean trend is challenging.” The reality, he said, is that sugar plays many roles. “In addition to providing sweetness, it also acts as a preservative—helping to extend the shelf life of foods and as a fermentation substrate. It is also important in the texture, structure, color, mouthfeel, viscosity, and flavoring of foods.” These are all reasons why reformulation for reduced sugar is such a challenge. “It doesn’t simply involve the removal of a single nutrient and, in fact, more often than not, the nutrient removed will have to be replaced with other ingredients.”

Innovation Outlook
As the market evolves, HealthFocus International expects the growing desire for personalized formulas will influence the sweetener market. “One of the important transformational areas that is yet to be fully developed is personalization that consumers seek to individualize for health, taste, and control,” said Johnson. “We see this as a potential new avenue that manufacturers can leverage to their benefit.”

Targan of Malt Products Corporation suggested clean label was a top priority moving forward, as the “sweeteners of tomorrow need to portray a wholesome image and a simple, even
throwback process.”

Cargill’s Ohmes believes consumer demand for reduced sugar options is just getting started, however the importance of taste and flavor experience must not be overlooked by formulators. He predicted foods and beverages that can achieve significant sugar reduction with the assistance of familiar and appealing ingredients would be successful—so long as they “still deliver on taste.”  


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