How to Choose Sweeteners for Your Food Business

April 7, 2023

In the world of food and beverages, sweeteners play an undeniable role. As a manufacturer of food and drinks, you may have wondered why some products leave a lasting impression while others fall short. In this creative era of food, choosing the right sweetener is like breathing life into your product. In order to navigate your way through this market, your product needs the right "sweetness code" to win consumers' favor. We'll take you on a journey through the world of sweet flavors, choosing just the right sweetener for your product.

1. Understanding the different types of sweeteners

The world of sweeteners is divided into two mysterious areas: natural sweeteners and artificial sweeteners. Each of these two areas has its own unique characteristics, and each offers a wealth of flavoring options for food and beverage innovation.

1.1 What are natural sweeteners?

Natural sweeteners are substances derived from plants or other natural sources. Common natural sweeteners include honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and stevia. Because these sweeteners are of natural origin, the sweetness is closer to nature and some contain additional nutritional value.

1.2 What are artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that replace sucrose. Since most artificial sweeteners are barely converted by the body, they have been referred to as calorie-free sugars. Some common artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sodium cyclamate, acesulfame, and sucralose

1.3 Natural sweetener vs. artificial sweetener

While natural and artificial sweeteners share a common attribute of providing sweetness, they differ in terms of source, caloric composition, and sweetness. Our goal is to delve into the differences between these two sweeteners. By comparing their differences, it allows you to choose the best sweetener for your personal needs.

1. Calories

Natural sweeteners still contain calories, for example, one tablespoon of honey contains about 60 calories. And artificial sweeteners contain both sweetness and no calories. If your food and beverage products are positioned as low-calorie, then artificial sweeteners are better for you.

2. Flavor

Natural sweeteners will provide a richer and more complex experience in terms of taste and texture, more in line with the taste requirements of products like whole grain breads or organic snacks. Instead, artificial sweeteners provide a more concentrated, sweeter flavor. It is suitable for products that require a high level of sweetness without adding calories, such as low-sugar or sugar-free beverages.

3. Sweetness

As a manufacturer of food or beverages, the sweetness level required for your product to be produced determines how much sweetener is needed to achieve that sweetness level. We usually measure sweetness in terms of equivalence to table sugar (sucrose), which has a sweetness rating of 1. 

SweetenerSweetness Level
Table Sugar (Sucrose)1
Honey1.1 - 1.5
Agave Nectar1.5 - 1.8
Maple Syrup0.7 - 0.9
Stevia200 - 350
Acesulfame potassium200

Generally speaking, artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than natural sweeteners.

2. How to choose the right sweeteners?

2.1 Understanding the needs of target consumers

In Euromonitor's Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition Survey in 2020, 53% of consumers considered reducing their sugar intake. They said they chose to eat less or no sugary foods because they wanted to improve their health. This means that as a food and beverage manufacturer, you should be looking for ways to position your products as low in sugar for today's health-conscious consumers.

And, as consumers seek low-sugar products, high-intensity sweeteners seem to have significant opportunities in products where there are no technical limitations, especially in beverages. However, most high-intensity sweeteners are artificial sweeteners. Even though consumers now claim to be looking for "artificial sweetener-free" products, we don't think this is the driving factor that will convince consumers to buy even if natural sweeteners are used. So, there is no need to get too hung up on whether or not to choose natural sweeteners for the sake of natural labeling ingredients. Because natural sweeteners can be a bit expensive and may not be the most cost-effective option. Artificial sweeteners will be the more economical choice most of the time.

2.2 Consider the taste and flavor of various types of sweeteners

In terms of taste and flavor, all types of sweeteners have their own characteristics. Most of the high-fold sweeteners are accompanied by after-bitter taste, such as acesulfame in high concentrations have after-bitter taste, but in the mouth sweetness lasts longer; sweetener concentration of more than 0.4% will appear bitter; concentration greater than 0.026% of saccharin sodium solution has a metallic taste and bitter taste; stevia glycoside in high concentrations there is a certain degree of after-bitterness, but can be modified by enzyme to improve the after-bitterness; sugar alcohol sweeteners Sugar alcohol sweeteners are lower in sweetness, but the taste is cool and pure, and will not lead to dental caries and elevated blood glucose, so they are used in large quantities in the modern food industry. Sugar alcohol sweeteners for the lower sweetness of this feature, its use with high-fold sweetener compound, can mask the high-fold sweetener after the bitter taste, but sugar alcohol sweeteners on the consumer will produce a certain amount of diarrhea reaction (except erythritol), such as the human body caused by flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal discomforts.

2.3 Consider your industry

When choosing the right sweetener, you need to think about your industry. While sweeteners all work in the same way, different types of products are unique due to their nature and uses. You need to choose different types of sweeteners based on the specific needs of your product to ensure optimal taste, stability, and compatibility.

For example, aspartame has poor heat stability. It should not be handled at 90 °C for a long time or it will decompose, so aspartame cannot be used in baked goods. In addition, aspartame is an acid-stable sweetener and should not be used in alkaline foods. Saccharin and aspartame tend to decompose and lose their sweetness under acidic conditions, limiting their use in carbonated beverages and other acidic foods.

If you are still confused about which sweetener to choose for your products, you can contact us. With our rich experience as a sweetener manufacturer in China, we can give you some advice on your choice. Whether it is from the use of the product or the price, we try our best to give you some help.

3. Understanding sweetener's regulatory standards

Because the food and beverage industry is extensively regulated, knowing and adhering to the relevant laws and regulations when choosing a sweetener is a critical step in ensuring product compliance and market access. Below, I will use the FDA as an example of sweeteners in food and what the requirements are:

The FDA establishes Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels for each of the sweeteners approved as food additives. The ADI is the amount of a substance that can be safely consumed each day of a person's life, and the following are the safe levels for each sweetener:

● Aspartame is 50 mg/kg bw/d               

● Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) is 15 mg/kg bw/d

● Neotame is 0.3 mg/kg bw/d

● Sucralose is 5 mg/kg bw/d

● Saccharin is 15 mg/kg bw/d

You may be interested in exploring more about food additives. Check out our recommended reading list below for additional articles and resources on food additives.

How to choose food additive suppliers

Acidity Regulators: What You Should Know

Citric Acid: The Secret Ingredient In Your Favorite Foods

Sodium Citrate: The Secret Sauce That Elevates Your Food and Health

These resources can provide you with more in-depth knowledge and insight into the world of food additives.

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