How Ingredion is Helping Processors Increase Options by Reducing Sugar

Aug. 6, 2021
With us are Afrouz Naeini, Didem Icoz, and Christina Coles from Ingredion talking about how the company is helping product developers sweeten products without the added sugar.

From reduced sugar intake to increased interest in comfort food, we kick things off talking about consumer trends as they relate to sugar reduction. We then shift into the sweetener options Ingredion has available that can help product developers create products that are indulgent, yet good-for-you. And we wrap things up talking about why is allulose a good tool for sugar reduction.

Enjoy this special bonus episode


Food Processing: There was a survey recently that said in the last year, nearly 85% of consumers were looking to reduce their sugar intake. What's driving that sugar reduction trend?

About Ingredion

Ingredion is a global ingredients solutions company. Based in Westchester, Illinois, they make sweeteners, starches, nutrition ingredients and biomaterials that are used by customers in everyday products from foods and beverages to paper and pharmaceuticals. Learn more at

Christina: We're seeing an overall increase in consumer engagement in health and wellness trends. We've been seeing more public health initiatives in the global marketplace. For example, in 2016, the World Health Organization started to encourage countries to add taxes to sugary beverages, something that some of us may be familiar with. A growing number of states in the U.S. have enacted these, as well as some other countries around the globe. And we've also seen sugar labeling changes taking place in North America.

In the U.S., the updated Nutrition Facts Panel on product labels now requires grams of added sugar and % daily value. And this has really created transparency around the sugars present in our food and beverages. We're finding that this is increasing the number of people actually looking to reduce sugar in their diet, as you cited.

Food Processing: Did you notice more consumers seeming interested in sweet comfort food related products? And from what you've seen, how have product developers been reacting to this sweet but reduced sugar request from consumers?

Guest Profile: Christina Coles

Christina is the Sr. Associate Marketing Manager for Sugar Reduction and Specialty Sweeteners in the US Canada region for Ingredion Inc. Christina holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Food Science from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Christina: When we look back at 2020, and what has happened with the pandemic, as an ingredient supplier, we saw consistent demand for our sugar reduction ingredients. Even though we saw across the country a drop in food service, we saw maintained growth and interest in the consumer packaged goods space for better-for-you sweet products and demand for our sugar reduction ingredients really grew even more consistent through the pandemic.

Regarding the second question around product developers' reaction, it really depends on the category. We found new product development projects did slow in some category areas. In bakery, for example, we saw a decrease in new product launches on the market. But in other areas, we continued to see a lot of growth, for example, in ice cream and frozen desserts, there continued to be a lot of new product launches that were reduced sugar, low carb type of products.

Food Processing: What are some of the key categories for sugar reduction?

Guest Profile: Afrouz Naeini

Afrouz Naeini is the Sugar Reduction and Specialty Sweeteners Platform Leader in North America, where she focuses on driving growth of Ingredion’s wide portfolio of Sugar reduction and specialty Sweeteners. Afrouz holds a Master’s degree in Food Science from University of Guelph in Canada, and an MBA from London Business School in the United Kingdom.

Afrouz: The key categories for sugar reduction remain mostly in line with the indulgence types of products. That is where consumers are asking for the best of both worlds. They are looking for indulgent, great tasting products, but they're also looking to fit that with their lifestyle goals of health and wellness. That is overall reduction in calories and specifically reduction of grams of sugar. A few examples are biscuits, beverages, confectioneries, as well as some of the newer trends such as ketogenic.

Food Processing: What are some of the sweetener options available that can help product developers create products that are indulgent, yet good for you?

Didem: At Ingredion, we look at sugar reduction with two key elements. The first one is sweetness replacement. In the simplest terms, sweetness replacement is achieved through high potency sweeteners, like stevia, sucralose, aspartame, monk fruits, and such.

And the second part is the functional build-back portion, and this portion is about replacing the key functional aspects that sugar brings. And these functional requirements vary by application. To give a few examples around this, like in a sweet baked good, sugar provides browning. Sugar also contributes to the volume, the spread of the cookie, the cell structure in a cake, and even the overall texture. In another example, frozen desserts, sugar provides freeze point depression. It controls ice crystal formation. And as before, it also contributes to the overall texture.

Guest Profile: Didem Icoz, PhD

Didem leads the Global Sugar Reduction Applications & Development Team driving key pipeline and research projects, and supporting global go-to-market teams. Didem holds a PhD in Food Science from Rutgers University, and MS and BS degrees in Food Engineering from Middle East Technical University in Turkey.

If you look at bars or bar segments, sugar provides binding characteristics, like holding the particulates together. It has an effect on the texture and hardness of the bar and also delivers humectancy, which is important for shelf-life storage. When you look at sugar confectionery, sugar and corn syrups, again, provide viscosity, texture. They have a special effect on water absorption and stability of the products. And as a last example, we can look at the high-solid systems, like a sweet sauce or a fruit spread that is used in blended yogurts. In there, sugar affects starch gelatinization. These systems mostly have starch ingredients for viscosity effect. And also, of course, sugar also contributes to the overall texture of the product, too.

The functional build-back ingredients need to provide all these functionalities of sugar depending on the application. Our portfolio at Ingredion provides a variety of these solutions that serves both sides of the sugar reduction. For instance, our offerings range from flavor modifiers that can enhance sweetness quality, increase a particular flavor intensity, maybe modify the taste, and maybe mask bitterness. And then also we have a number of proprietary Stevia-based sweeteners to deliver sugar-like taste performance with the cost effectiveness.

And on the other side, the functional build-back side of the sugar reduction, we also have a range of polyols, low sugar syrups, allulose, as an example of a rare sugar, fibers, and an extensive portfolio of starches and hydrocolloids that complements the other sugar reduction tools.

Food Processing: Why is allulose a good tool for sugar production?

Didem: Allulose is a great tool for sugar reduction. It's part of the rare sugar family. And rare sugars are called as such because they are found in very small quantities in nature. Allulose is about 70% as sweet as sugar, and has a similar taste profile and functionality as sugar. It's not counted as a part of the total and added sugars, according to the FDA guidance, and adds only 0.4 calories per gram to the formulation. As a comparison, sugar adds 4 calories per gram. So, with all these aspects, it's a great tool for sugar reduction.

Food Processing: What do we know about consumer awareness of allulose?

Afrouz: As a new ingredient and a new technology in sugar reduction, Allulose is till lacking in consumer awareness. We did a study in seven different categories just last year to understand consumers' awareness of allulose as well as their behavior, and their preferences around it. Let me walk you through some of the key takeaways of that research.

First and foremost, roughly 10% of consumers are aware of allulose. Given the product is less than 10 years in the market, that is to be expected. What we also wanted to understand is how many of those consumers trust allulose. The good news is consumers don't have a negative perception of allulose despite the fact that they are not really aware of it yet in most cases. And I can give you some numbers here. Anywhere from 50% to 60% of consumers will look at allulose on a label and either readily accept of it or not think about it in a negative way. They would accept it either way.

We also understood that if we educate the same consumers and tell them all the great product attributes that Didem just shared—about the role that allulose plays—then acceptance will jump to anywhere from 93% to 97%, depending on the category. Consumers ask for more education on Allulose. We see this as a, responsibility that Ingredion shares with many of our customers in the CPG world. nonetheless, consumers are positive about Allulose and many of them are eager to taste sugar-like sweeteners that have no aftertaste and it allows them to enjoy their indulgent treat in a better-for-you format.

Food Processing: For listeners who wanted to learn more about what Ingredion is doing, how should they go about doing so?

Christina: You can visit us at to learn more about our sugar reduction and specialty sweetener portfolio. We also have a chat function on the website where you can talk with our Solution Gurus about ingredients, functionality, or how to overcome formulation challenges on products that you're working with. Please visit us at www.ingredion.US.

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