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Talking sugar reduction with Doehler SA

Even but five years ago, it was unthinkable that an ingredient as regular and ubiquitous as sugar would catapult into a massive global controversy. Consumers want less of it, and governments want to tax what’s left – and this is a huge challenge for F&B manufacturers. FOOD-DRINKStuff SA editor, Brenda Neall, explores sugar reduction and Doehler’s options with its South African GM, Kieran Quinn.

BN: Big question first: what’s driving sugar reduction in SA: health or taxes?

KQ: Naturalness, growing health consciousness and the reduction of sugar and calories continue to be the key drivers in the food and beverage industry.

Of course, the imposition of the sugar tax this year has been a driving issue.

So, SA is slowly but surely following the international trend to cut sugar and calories?

Absolutely… For instance, Doehler’s market research has found that around 3,800 new soft drinks labelled as reduced-sugar and reduced-calorie beverages were introduced onto the global market in 2016 alone. Two years on, the impetus is even stronger.

How complex and/or compromising is filling the sugar void?

Products with reduced sugar and calories are a big trend, but consumers are not happy to compromise on taste, and never will be. The challenge, obviously, is to develop reduced-sugar foods and beverages that have a similar taste profile to a full-sugar variant.

Beside the sweetening effect sugar fulfills multiple functions in food and beverages. It enhances also the taste of the flavour and provides a pleasant mouthfeel. But replacing sugar satisfactorily, from both organoleptic and cost perspectives, is not necessarily that complex or compromising – it’s more about finding the right solution for every type of product application and its positioning.

Let’s talk about what Doehler can offer in sugar reduction?

We deliver application-specific sweetening solutions for every degree of sugar reduction – with the optimal multi-sensory experience always taking centre stage.

We offer tailor-made sweetening solutions that reduce sugar and achieve great results in terms of sweetness perceptions, taste, mouthfeel and stability.

Our line-up includes all the conventional high-intensity sweeteners such as acesulfame and stevia, and then we have a smart range of natural flavour solutions, called MultiSense Flavours that enable the sensory properties of calorie-reduced products to be improved.

Depending on the flavour, the natural MultiSense Flavours range allows the sugar content to be reduced without using additional sweeteners to mask the after-taste of sweeteners or to improve the mouthfeel of sugar-reduced products.

But that’s not all….we also have crystal sugar substitutes such as fruit and malt extracts.

So, this sounds like putting a tapestry of taste together, combining and tweaking, to suit individual products?

Exactly! So, for instance, you can use MultiSense Sweet, a range of natural aromas that improve the sweetness profile and mouthfeel in reduced-sugar beverages and confectionery by optimising the product’s initial and main sweetness.

And there’s also MultiSense Mouthfeel that influences the way the product is perceived by the mouth, producing a sugar-like mouthfeel and avoiding the watery taste many reduced-sugar beverages leave in the mouth.

Another component is MultiSense Masking that’s used to mask the aftertaste and off-notes of sweeteners, and the result is a naturally sweet taste experience.

All of these can be combined with sweeteners or used as a stand-alone solution.

This allows the creation of a well-balanced taste profile, for example, in sugar-reduced CSDs and still drinks, in dairy products such as yoghurt and milk mixes, as well as alcohol-free beers.  

It’s a very impressive product range that provides a great taste experience – and a clean label, to boot.

It’s rather a cliché to say that taste is always king, and if it’s not then the product is likely to be a dud – and in my experience, a great many sugar-reduced products are pretty lousy; those made with stevia come to mind…

Agreed… Stevia, the sweetener of natural origin, has been on everyone’s lips for years now. But stevia was mistaken for a fully-fledged sugar substitute in many cases. That’s been a big misunderstanding.

Experience has shown that the best sensory results are achieved by replacing 30-50 % of the sugar. On the other hand, this can differ from application to application as the after-taste takes shape in very different ways in each beverage and food.

The stevia after-taste is usually more apparent in near-water beverages, whereas in tea-based beverages the taste of stevia blends superbly with the herb and tea notes.

At Doehler we customise our MultiSweet Stevia to individually suit each customer’s recipe – and then, combined with MultiSense aromas, we get outstanding results.

Furthermore, to highlight the natural character of the beverage, MultiSweet Stevia can also be combined with agave nectar or MultiSweet Fruit which is made from pure fruit concentrates.

Pure fruit concentrates sound sugar heavy?

While juices enjoy a health halo of authenticity and natural origin, many of them  are actually very calorific due to their high fructose content. But in terms of sugar reduction, it’s particularly important to maintain these positive properties.

Doehler has developed different approaches to reduce the sugar content in fruit juices and fruit-based drinks. The most natural way to reduce sugar is to use raw materials that contain little sugar per se.

We offer a variety of low-Brix juice concentrates and juices, which are obtained from fruits that contain less fruit sugar.

In addition to that, Doehler has developed non-alcoholic fermented juices. By using state-of-the-art fermentation and biotechnologies, Doehler reduces the fructose and calorie content of juices by up to 60 percent.

And last but not least, vegetable juices are the hottest tip to reduce the sugar content in juices and juice based drinks.

Now that sounds dead on-trend! Everyone wants to eat more veggies, but sometimes that’s not so easy to achieve…

Compared to fruit juices they contain less sugar – so, indeed, a juice format offers a convenient, time-saving yet pleasant-tasting solution to adding a dollop of health of products.

We have a broad portfolio of vegetable ingredients that can be tailored to produce wonderful combinations when mixed with fruit juices.

Doehler sets great store on vertical integration – meaning the company has its own sustainable cultivation and vegetable processing facilities using the latest technologies to produce top-class vegetable ingredients.

And a last word…

In principle, these solutions are just the beginning. Sugar reduction is a huge construct, going beyond the provision of sweetening solutions.

Doehler firmly believes that it is a global issue that’s currently turning the entire world of food and beverage upside down. Sugar reduction, as well as naturalness, is one of our corporate topics, which runs like a red thread through the entire value chain.

It’s about securing raw materials that are characterised by an ideal sugar ratio, developing food and beverage concepts that fit the needs of consumers, and ultimately designing recipes that taste outstanding despite their reduced sugar content.

About Doehler:

Doehler ( is a global producer, marketer and provider of technology-driven natural ingredients, ingredient systems and integrated solutions for the food and beverage industry.

Doehler South Africa contacts:

E: [email protected]/[email protected]

Tel: +27 (0)21 001 2800