The Sugar Debate
Sugar is constantly coming under scrutiny in the media, whether it is manufacturers reducing the sugar content in products, celebrity chefs non-stop publicising the potential dangers of sugar, the Government enforcing sugar taxes or Public Health officials warning of the dangers of obesity, meaning it’s a topical debate that keeps escalating.
In March 2017 the Public Health England called for all food and drink manufacturers to voluntarily reduce sugar content in them products by 20% by 2024; hence companies such as Nestle are introducing chocolate products with lower sugar levels.
Plus, the implementation of the Sugar Tax, which at the moment applies only to sugar-sweetened beverages, adds to the pressures that the food and beverage industry are incurring.
These enforcements come down to the fact that experts say that one in five children are currently obese or over weight. Public Health England reveal that seeing a 20% reduction in sugar content would cut costs to the NHS by £4.5bn over 25 years.
However, reducing the sugar content is not just an easy task. Firstly, consumers will be the first to complain that the taste, texture and appearance are different as a result. Plus replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners brings on a whole new debate over the health implications of these manufactured substitutes. Lastly, manufacturers are concerned that by reducing sugar in some food and drink items can cause products to break down as sugars are needed to colour, bind & caramelise etc, certain products; costs of products will also rise to accommodate alternative ingredients.
“if you start adding polyols for bulk and colours, not only does the product become less natural, ultimately it becomes more expensive to make.”
Ben Eastick, Marketing Director of Ragus
For example, in manufacturing baked goods, such as bread, “taking out sugar altogether is not really a viable option,” says Eastick. “Sugar contributes to the bakery process by browning and caramelising breads, contributing to yeast nourishment, controlling water content and improving the leavening and gelatinisation of the dough”.
Andrew Hughes, of Campden BRI Group agrees with Eastick, adding ‘the role of sugar in bakery products isn’t just about sweetness, it’s a functional ingredient which can affect the texture, shape and shelf life of the product. Reduction or replacement of sugar can therefore have a number of different results.”
Dawn Foods, marketing manager Jacqui Passmore agrees too, she says, “achieving a 20% sugar reduction is more challenging, especially when we do not want to increase ingredients costs or alter product texture.” Natalie Drake, category manager forSynergy Flavours, also highlights that “when sugar is removed from products it can cause a distinct loss of flavour.”
As previously suggested, the solution for some manufacturers is to replace sugars with sweeteners, but these too carry numerous health implications as “if you use sweeteners as an alternative to sugar, the sweeteners suppress the production of the hormone lecithin”, adds Eastick. “Lecithin tells the brain when it’s had enough carbohydrate, but with sweeteners the brain doesn’t receive that signal – so you just keep eating.”
Many bakers and chefs are now introducing alternative forms of natural sugars including using honey, maple syrup and fruit and vegetables to avoid using refined sugars, but at the end of the day“health is important”, says UK chef consultant David Colcombe, “ but indulgence is key too.”
Thus, surely the issue should come down to educating the public on self-control and how to sustain a healthy balanced diet.
Sugars are an important source of energy that we all need in order to survive. The most common sugar in the human body is glucose, which your brain, major organs and muscles need in order to function properly.
Andy Baxendale, aka, The Sweet Consultant who has more than23 years’ experience in the confectionery industry adds, “it is time to stop vilifying sugar – it is not hidden in confectionery products – they are meant as treats not staple diet. Education is the key here, not being dictated to by a nanny state.”
Established in 1928, Ragus today are a leading supplier in the production of brown sugars, syrups and treacles for major food, drink and pharmaceutical companies. Ragus develop customised sugar formulations for a wide variety of applications from ethically sourced raw materials to the controlled transformation into high quality functional ingredients. Ragus provides its clients with pure sugars for taste, texture and appearance of their consumer products based on our unique knowledge, experience and dedication.