It's Okay to Leave in Calories and Fat

Aug. 1, 2006
Ingredient solutions at the recent IFT show indicate it’s OK to leave in a few calories and some fat.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

I was mixing up my own version of Coke C2 long before Coca-Cola created the mid-calorie soda in 2004. I started mine some time in 1998, a year or so after I had turned 40. I could feel my resting metabolism begin to slow, then I noticed just a tiny ripple of a paunch growing around my waist.

C2 and Pepsi Edge may have failed, but there appears to be a new effort at mid-calorie moderation. I saw it in several booths at the recent Institute of Food Technologists’ food show.

Back when I started my mid-calorie moderation, it was impractical to custom-mix every Coke in the day. But the ones I had at home in the evening were half regular Coke and half Diet Coke, thereby cutting my calories in half. I couldn’t truly accept the taste of diet products yet, but I wasn’t obese, either. So the half-hearted approach seemed to work for me. (Now, however, I’m pretty much on 100 percent Diet Coke.)

Come to my house for coffee and you could be offered three Tupperware bowls of sweetener. One sugar, one Splenda and one with a hand-written label: Dave’s sweetener. It’s half sugar and half Splenda.

People here at the office know who’s responsible for the half-donuts, neatly cut but left in the box.

It’s a pity the Pepsi and Coke products didn’t do well. But it didn’t stop Coke from formulating its new coffee-cola beverage Blak with a mix of high-fructose corn syrup and non-nutritive sweeteners for a moderate calorie level of 45. Similarly, 7-Up Plus, while mainly a story of fortification, also chose to keep a few calories (10) in.

So I wasn’t surprised to see at the recent IFT show Tate & Lyle’s Sweetener Rebalance M60, which includes a mix of maltodextrin and sucralose and which contributes 5 calories per 8-oz. serving. Rebalance LF3 contains fructose and sucralose, not only sweetening but improving the mouthfeel of carbonated beverages and still drinks. A low-sugar iced tea with Rebalance LF3, sampled at the Tate & Lyle booth at the show, had a satisfying but safe 15 calories per 8-oz. serving.

ADM’s Aspire is another general “solution set” that offers a customized balance between nutrition and taste. With the Degussa Food Ingredients businesses now in the fold, Cargill demonstrated a low- (but not zero-) fat ice cream.

Moderation in all things has served me pretty well as I rocket through baby-boomer middle age. We write so often of the obesity epidemic and the extreme methods processors make or should make to drain every last calorie or gram of fat from a product. Despite the proud proclamations at press conferences, some degree of pleasure usually is lost.

While there certainly are consumers among us who need such extreme measures, I think the larger market needs just a little help, just a little refinement of the favorite products they’ve grown to enjoy. Because they want to keep on enjoying.

We need your votes

It may still be summertime on the calendar, but in the publishing world we’re fast approaching the home stretch. We need your help with two end-of-year popularity contests.

First, our annual picks for best new food products of the year come up in our November issue. We editors have our favorites, but we’d love to hear about yours. Suggest something novel, something innovative or something just plain yummy.

In December we’ll unveil our Processor of the Year. The criteria are: sound financial performance (including expanding sales and profitability), innovative product development, leading manufacturing technology, managerial excellence, general industry leadership and service.

For both features, simply send me an e-mail with your suggestions and we’ll take it from there. Thanks.

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