Nestlé said it had found a process to naturally reduce sugar content by as much as 40 per cent in what the maker of Kit Kats claims is a first for the industry, as pressure to produce healthier drinks and snacks ratchets up amid an obesity epidemic.
The world’s largest food and drinks company said on Wednesday that it was securing a patent for its innovation and would gradually begin to introduce it into a range of its chocolate and candy brands from 2018, allowing it time to prepare for the shift.
Stefan Catsicas, Nestlé’s chief technology officer, said that humans only taste a fraction of the sugar they consume because the crystals do not dissolve completely until they are swallowed. He said that his team managed to alter the structure of crystals so they contain less sugar, but taste just as good, having tested it out on a number of taster panels.
“We decreased the total content of the sugar crystal, so for the same sensation you eat much less,” Mr Catsicas said.
We decreased the total content of the sugar crystal, so for the same sensation you eat much less
As many consumers seek healthier diets and governments battle to control high obesity levels which is adding billions of dollars to healthcare costs, the biggest food and drinks companies are investing heavily in innovations to meet these new demands. Nestlé’s breakthrough follows PepsiCo’s recent commitment to spend billions of dollars creating new snacks and beverages, and reformulating existing ones to cut salt, sugar and fat content.
Much of the pressure on reducing sugar has focused on drinks, where governments from the UK, South Africa and Mexico have introduced taxes on sugary drinks or plan to over the coming months and years. This focus on soft drinks such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola is due in part to heavy consumption by some members of the population and the fact that they are seen as containing no other useful nutrients.
Nestlé’s work on sugar reduction is part of a drive since 2004 to make its food more healthy and it has been working on this latest innovation for the past two years. Before that, the company’s food science team worked out that by “distributing fat droplets differently” in its Dreyer’s ice cream, consumers still taste the same smoothness but it halves the amount of fat.
The World Health Organization urges individuals to limit their daily intake of added sugar to 10 per cent of total energy intake, a level the US Department of Agriculture estimates is some way below the average intake by Americans. The WHO estimates that in the UK and Spain intake is 16-17 per cent.
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