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DAIRY PRODUCTS

Use of sweeteners in Dairy products with contemporary examples in the market
Tuesday, 30 November, 2021, 13 : 00 PM [IST]
Joshna Joseph
Sweeteners are food additives which are used either to impart sweetness to food or as a tabletop sweetener. Sweeteners are classified as sugar, sugar replacers and intense sweeteners.

Examples of sugars include glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltose. Sugar replacers include sorbitol, maltitol, isomalt, mannitol, xylitol, can be used, these sugar replacers are also called as sugar alcohols which have no calories but provide a sweet taste. Intense sweeteners include Acesulfame K, Cyclamate, Aspartame, Saccharine, Neotame, sucralose, these sweeteners provide several times more sweetness than normal table sugar and lower calories.

Due to the public health concern associated with the consumption of added refined sugar, the World Health Organisation recommends cutting down sugar in processed foods. Furthermore, due to the increased calorie intake from added sugar in sweetened dairy foods more and more people are going towards lifestyle disorders such as diabetes. Among different strategies for sugar reduction, the use of natural non-nutritive sweeteners (NNSs), has received more focus due to consumer demand for natural ingredients.

Sweetness imparted by sugar can be replaced by natural NNSs, however, sugar provides  sweetness as well as calories to the sweetened dairy products. Sugar reduction involves multiple technical challenges to maintain the sensory properties of the product, as well as to maintain consumer acceptance. Because there is no single sugar that has a sensory profile that matches sucrose, the use of two or more natural NNSs could be an option for food industries to reduce sugar using a holistic approach rather than a single sugar reduction strategy. Therefore, achieving even a small sugar reduction can significantly improve the diet and health of an individual.

Consumers’ preferences are continuously shifting towards healthier food alternatives. This is mainly due to the increasing awareness in consumers regarding the impact of foods on health. Most of the dairy companies have focused on producing healthier products without compromising changes in the sensory profile to maintain the market value, since a better sensory profile of the product is vital for consumer liking and acceptance of the product.

Consumer acceptance of sweetened dairy products like lassi, flavored yogurt, condensed milk, flavoured milk, icecreams is largely dependent on the sweetness and texture/consistency profile of the product. The fat and other food components may be important factors for influencing the intensity and liking of sweetness and consumption of sugar in beverages. However, there is limited information on the interaction of different food components and their influence on taste and consumer acceptance. Therefore, while reducing sugar, it is critical to analyse how product properties (physicochemical and microbial), vary with sugar concentrations and how they influence the consumer preference and acceptance of the product.

The reduction of sugar and its impact on consumer acceptance can be overcome using sweeteners to enhance the sensory and functional properties of sucrose to some extent. The combined effect of stevia and sucralose has improved sensory and physical properties in the sugar-free dairy dessert. Similarly, blending Reb M with Reb B/Reb D resulted in sweetness synergy with an improvement in sweetness intensity, onset and bitterness perception. Similarly, blending aspartame (APM) and acesulfame-K (ACE-K) resulted in sweetness synergy by approximately 30%.

Furthermore, aroma plays a significant role in taste perception. It can either mask or increase the perception of a taste. As sweetness perception is enhanced by the addition of vanilla, caramel, or fruity aromas , their usage enhances the sensory perception of products. Natural sweeteners such as stevia as well as monk fruit extract are being used to provide the consumers with natural sweetness.

In India Epigamia (DRUMS foods International), has come up with flavored yogurt, milkshakes, Smoothies which are sugar based products. Permitted artificial sweeteners can be used in traditional dairy sweets such as basundi, shrikhand, burfi, to replace sugar content which indeed has a lot of calories. Sensory quality of the products is highly affected by replacing the sugar with artificial sweeteners, therefore, necessary process modifications have to be made to overcome these adverse effects.

Legal restrictions are to be kept in mind while replacing the sugar in the products and proper regulatory mechanisms should be in place to check the indiscriminate use of the permitted sweeteners. Sugar replaced products are costly because of costlier sweetener varieties. The question of whether products containing artificial sweeteners can be recommended for consumption by diabetics and obese people and the quantity to be consumed should be resolved by taking into consideration overall calorie intake of persons.

(The author is research and development manager at Soch Foods LLP)
 
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