Shifting Taste Preferences: Natural Flavor Over Sugar?

  • Sugar and sugar substitutes (or artificial sweeteners) may not be the only ingredient amplifying sweetness in our food.
  • Forbes mentions that we are slowly adapting to ‘lower levels of sweetness’.
  • From January 2020, the amount of sugar in a product will be labeled, due to an FDA mandate.
  • An uptick is definitely on the horizon-with vendors investing in replacing sugar with natural flavors.

Sugar has been a key ingredient in the food and beverage industry for a long time now. The product is not just a key source of energy but also used to enhance flavors. However, our generation has taken to consuming higher amounts of sugar in the past years. The increased spending on fancy, gourmet, and aesthetically appealing food products is leading to excessive sugar consumption.

While being an important source of glucose, we must note that too much sugar leads to a host of health concerns. Obesity and diabetes are a direct effect of high sugar consumption habits.

Here are some statistics on the same:

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 422 million people suffered from diabetes in 2014. The WHO attributes over 1.6 million deaths to diabetes in 2016 alone.
  • In 2016, more than 650 million adults were reportedly obese. 39% of the total global population was overweight in 2016, out of which 13% was obese. According to WHO, a large percentage of the population lives in countries where being obese kills more than being underweight.

Are We Losing Our Sweet Palate?

There has been a rising movement towards discarding and reducing sugar intake in the past few years on these grounds. The struggle to eliminate sugar from daily diet is real, and it has been a trend among weight watchers, diabetics, and the increasingly aware young population. Millennials and the Generation Z obsesses about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is a key reason why reducing sugar is in style. Even Forbes says that this trend is leading to a shift in our palate. Apparently, we have been consuming less sweet tasting food products and beverages, and will not tolerate intensely sweet tasting items. Our taste buds, evolved to prefer less sweet delicacies, could play a key role in generating demand for enhanced sweet flavorings.

Why Natural Sweeteners Could be the Answer

This has given rise to the adoption of natural sweeteners on the whole. Two key plant species, the Stevia rebaudiana, and Siraitia grosvenorii, contain sweetening properties of high intensity.  A study on the natural sweeteners market mentions that a lot of research and investment is being poured into replacing sugar with nature-derived substitutes. According to TMR’s report, erythritol and stevia are key ingredients used in the production of natural sweeteners. Manufacturers are thus investing in the production of nature-derived sweeteners extensively. By 2026, the food and beverage industry is likely to generate over $27,900 million in revenues in this sector.

Regulations put forth by authoritative bodies support this predicament. A levy put on beverage vendors, the sugar tax, is a key development in this case. Further, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a mandate that requires manufacturers to label the amount of naturally occurring sugar in their product.

A Balance between Taste and Nutrition

However, consumers are not willing to compromise on the taste to a large extent. Our deep-pocketed consumer generation is ready to pay more for a great taste experience while ensuring the ingredients are ‘healthy’. Thus, vendors who are reformulating their products to include natural sweeteners must establish a balance between maintaining the taste and enhancing nutrition.

Does this mean a paradigm shift in the way we taste our sweets? What do you think?

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Manmita Kamlapurkar

Contributor @ Transparency Market Research's Editorial Team.

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