Sweet truths: Solving confectionery’s problem with sugar reduction
New Food asked Noam Kaplan, CEO at Lampados to talk us through the role sweeteners can play and to offer us an insight into how we might provide an attractive alternative to sugar.
Confectionery is undergoing an existential crisis. With increasingly health-conscious consumers around the world demanding products with reduced sugar content, on the face of it, the industry to be most directly hit would be confectionery. In light of this, we asked Noam Kaplan, CEO at Lampados to talk us through the role sweeteners can play and to offer us an insight into precisely how Lampados are providing an attractive alternative to sugar.
How great a challenge is the need for sugar reduction?
The problem is huge. The sugar tax debate in the UK exemplifies this at the moment. Furthermore, in Israel, where Lampados is based and the Liteez product was developed, the government will introduce measures in 2018 that include greater restrictions on sugar content such as a red label system highlighting products with excessive amounts of sugar. Furthermore, we are definitely witnessing a far greater interest in sugar reduction and alternatives from nations such as Japan and South Korea. In the Far East, it never used to be a popular issue to discuss sweeteners – now it seems a core topic.
A problem we are now facing is regarding a certain stigma surrounding sweeteners. Often sweeteners are trying to appear as a natural alternative to sugar. The issue here is that we do not have a certified definition of the term natural. How can you say a product has been naturally produced if acid has been used in the process? Most of the stevia-based options for example are extracted using alcohol or acids. This, according to my definition is not a natural alternative. The EU and US must act to certify precisely what is or is not a natural product.
A solution to the problem with sweeteners
A profile of Lampados’s Liteez from CEO Noam Kaplan.
Lampados has traditionally manufactured table top sweeteners since 1975. Over the past few years, however, we have begun to understand that people now see sweeteners not as a solution for sugar reduction but rather as something they don’t wish to consume. Often consumers consider them as overtly chemical and almost medicine-like in their form as a powder, for example.
In collaboration with an innovation company called Practical Innovation, we thought at Lampados, how do we change this trend? How do we convince others to regard sweeteners as something they actively want to consume?
Often consumers consider sweeteners as overtly chemical and almost medicine-like in their form as a powder…
We decided that we needed a product that looked home-made and friendly and this led us to initially choose a cookie shape before deciding on the meringue shape. The way in which we achieved this was by adding proteins, firstly animal -based proteins before realising that vegetable-based proteins granted us greater flexibility in the scientific process.
Experimenting on the protein aspect of the sweetener, for us is a key aspect of creating a sweetener that has both form and shape and further contributes to the sugar reduction element as less sweetener itself has to be included.
So the protein gives us the form. A homely, meringue shape is vastly different from the medical-style powder form that sweeteners had often been given in the past.
How about the sugar reduction aspect – clearly a pretty important part of a successful sweetener?
This aspect took us months to overcome. On the one hand we needed something soluble, but soluble fibres often struggle to hold their structure, thus compromising the important form aspect for us.
In the oven, they looked great but as soon as we had taken them, out, they began to collapse. So we had to experiment once again and reconcile the conflict between ensuring solubility as this sweetener was aimed at the hot drinks market, with composition and form. We therefore had to strike a delicate balance between several different fibres of which most were prebiotic – we didn’t specifically seek out the prebiotic, this just seemed to be a natural direction we ended up taking – to both ensure texture and structure. Some were too heavy, some felt like eating air. It was about finding the middle ground.
We decided upon fibres as regular sweeteners use a high intensity sweetener like sucralose or stevia. These often are added to as bulking agent substances such as dextrose, sugar, or polyols and the rest. Some of these are laxative, some are simply sugars and people just don’t really wish to consume these. This represents part of the reason for why people are running away from sweeteners.
Our use of fibres is a move away from the use of bulking agents. Fibres themselves are being more widely incorporated into our foods as it is generally thought we don’t consume enough of them anyway in our diet. And voilà: That is how we arrived at the Liteez product. The complementary integration of vegetable proteins and prebiotic fibres enable us to use fewer sweeteners in our product.
So we have the form and sugar reduction elements sorted, is there anything to be improved upon?
Certainly, moisture absorption is an issue for us. This is why we use high barrier packaging. We have a one year shelf life, not due to bacteria but rather moisture absorption.
What does the future hold for confectionery in a sugar-conscious world?
Confectionery needs to begin to dream. There is too much compromise in the industry at present and not enough pure creativity, risk-taking or innovation. Change is too gradual. If the world wants vegan, GMO-free, sugar-free confectionery, the changes will have to be far more than just replacing sugar with dried fruit, for example, which itself is naturally very sweet.
Confectionery needs to begin to dream
To revolutionise the confectionery industry and solve confectionery’s problem with sugar, we need to dream and roll the dice. Perhaps 2017 will be the year in which this occurs.