Formulating for Sugar Reduction: Brenntag Food & Nutrition

Tayab Haq (Business Development Manager) and Steve Timms (Commercial Development Manager) of Brenntag Food & Nutrition discuss sugar reduction and the opportunities from formulating with Stevia and Chicory Root Fibre


Public Health England is challenging manufacturers from a wide range of sectors to reduce the amount of sugar included in their products 20% by 2020. As a nation, adults and children alike are consuming too much sugar in our everyday foods, more than double the maximum recommended allowance, leading to weight gains and obesity. In the latest reporting on first year targets, where the target was a 5% reduction across the board, both own label and private label products achieved on average a 2% reduction in both sugar and total calories.

Across the UK, by the time a child has reached their tenth birthday they would have reportedly consumed more sugar than is recommended for an 18 year old ( It is reassuring that ingredients such as Stevia and Chicory Root Fibre offer food manufacturers opportunities to reduce daily sugar consumption and help reach sugar reduction targets.

Today we are in Brenntag F&N Centre in Widnes, UK, one of Brenntag’s 28 application and development centers spread out all over the world – from Essen to Johannesburg to Manila to Mexico City. Here the company’s food technologists with strong background in formulating and nutritional food science work on customer briefs and development of innovative recipes to help manufacturers meet the challenging targets. Since Christmas, the teams here have worked on number of applications within the food and beverage industry, completing work on no- bake protein snacks, reduced sugar flapjack, gluten and dairy free cakes, as well as salt and fat reduction projects in meat and beverage applications. The formation of the Brenntag Food & Nutrition global business unit last November means the teams across the regions are able to work even more closely together, bringing expertise of 750-strong Brenntag Food& Nutrition team to our local customers.

I am welcomed by Steve Timms and Tayab Haq of Brenntag Food & Nutrition team, who, as I arrive, are discussing non-allergenic vegetable protein to discuss a project for the vegetarian and vegan sectors.

The team is keen to get me to try some of the latest recipes. Steve Timms, Commercial Manager for Brenntag Food & Nutrition, UK & Ireland, says: “Sugar reduction is clearly a megatrend. Tastes vary, however one trend seem to unite consumers, and that is healthy eating. We have been developing products addressing the healthy nutrition for a number of years, and certainly sugar reduction is high on the agenda.”

We talk about the two ingredients that the team is particularly excited about. One is Steviol Glycosides, which are extracts from the Stevia leaf, as an alternative to sugar is a widely accepted natural sweetener. The glycosides are used in a variety of combinations to give a natural plant-derived sweetener with minimal calories, low glycaemic index and can be up to 400 times sweeter than sucrose. Tayab Haq, Business Development Manager, says: “When used in manufacturing, Stevia has multiple advantages due to its innate stability from light, temperature and pH whilst also having good solubility properties. When we compare the usage of Stevia to other non-natural sweeteners, from 2010 to 2017, the % of global launches using aspartame fell by 16% whilst launches with Stevia increased by 18% (source Mintel GDNP). This evidence shows Stevia is fast becoming the choice of natural sweetener replacement for artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, in response to growing consumer demand.”

Chicory Root Fibre (or Inulin) is a recognised dietary fibre that offers up to 60% sweetness relative to sucrose. Chicory Root Fibre is obtained from a natural plant source and can replace sugar in a variety of sweet and savoury applications. It provides a low calorific value and glycaemic index but it also has the properties to give mouthfeel for bulk sugar replacement. When replacing sugar within recipes, there are two challenges presented: the loss of sweetness and the lack of mouthfeel. Tay comments: “By itself, Stevia will add sweetness but not bulk. However, if you combine Stevia with Chicory Root Fibre, you get the benefit of bulk to give mouthfeel which enhances sweetness whilst also suppressing the bitter/liquorice aftertaste which can be associated with Stevia. “

The partnership of Chicory Root Fibre and Stevia gives a natural, plant-derived sweetener combination that can used across a range of sectors and categories. The picture is changing as manufacturers experiment with different ratios and variations of both ingredients in order to achieve their desired level of sugar reduction.

Some good examples of Chicory Root Fibre, Stevia and flavour boosting ingredients working together can be found in low calorie or sugar reduced ice creams. Longer chain oligofructose, as found in chicory root fibre, gives added bulk for fat replacement with minimal impact on energy density, as it has half the calories of sucrose. Often it can be split with addition of a shorter chain oligofructose for sweetness but adding Stevia enhances sweetness of flavours in the ice cream, to the extent that it may be possible to slightly reduce levels of any added natural flavours (if present). The ratio of Chicory Root Fibre to Stevia will depend on the desired texture of the finished ice cream (hard or soft) as well as the impact on freezing point depression and the size of ice crystals. The addition of short chain Chicory Root Fibre to ice cream increases the amount of dissolved solids and lowers the freezing point. An ice cream with a higher content of dissolved solids has less frozen water and therefore gives ice cream with a softer eating texture.

Short chain Chicory Root Fibre can be added with Stevia to make no added sugar milk chocolate. Tay says: “The Chicory Root Fibre provides the bulk to replace sugar and, as the Stevia helps to optimize the sweetness profile, the Chicory Root Fibre returns the favour by masking the strong bitter aftertaste originating from Stevia which can be further neutralised by use of flavour boosters. As a result, this helps retain the required mouthfeel for chocolate and by helping to masks any metallic/bitter flavour notes, as it melts in the mouth.” When the Chicory Root Fibre is used in powdered form, which means it can be processed in the same way as sugar is for regular milk chocolate, making it easier for manufacturers to adopt this ingredient with their processing equipment and methodology.

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