Keep the Taste, Lose the Sugar, to Make Beverage Products Viable in Today’s Market

Nowhere is the “I want it sugar-free, but it needs to taste like it has sugar in it” consumer demand more visible than in the beverages market. Whether it’s coffee, tea, energy or carbonated soda, if a brand doesn’t offer a low to no-sugar option, it’s missing an opportunity as 3 in 5 consumers are opting for low-sugar products1.

Those same consumers still want these beverages to deliver a jolt of caffeine. That makes removing sugar a little more complicated, because sugar lessens the bitterness of caffeine. It also provides a way to elevate or suppress other flavors, so its removal creates challenges across the taste spectrum.

Removing sugar also cuts calories, and calories (alongside the caffeine) help ready-to-drink beverages deliver energy. So making sure that a low to no-sugar version of an RTD beverage delivers a solid pick-me-up is another hurdle for product developers to overcome.

Here’s how those challenges break down across different types of beverages.:

  • Coffee: Bitterness is expected, which helps with flavoring, but the beverage must still be balanced and drinkable.
  • Tea: A certain astringency, or tartness, is expected, but if lots of new ingredients are added, off notes are a possibility.
  • Energy Drinks: These are often loaded with ingredients such as vitamins and minerals, upping the potential for flavor issues. Cutting sugar makes those unwanted flavors very noticeable.
  • Carbonated Sodas: Here consumers are aware of the “traditional” taste, so the goal is to achieve proximity to that familiar flavor profile while reducing sugar.

A recent Food Business News piece dove into this challenging landscape. Sensient Flavors and Extracts Business Development Technical Manager Whitney Johnson discussed the challenges, which range from covering up caffeine to dialing back off notes and other negatives.

The Balanced Solution to Sipping Smarter — TrueBoost™ Sweetness and Smoothenol®

“Sugar helps provide body to the beverage, which gives it a fullness to create a better-tasting product,” Johnson explains. “Sugar will also provide a unique flavor that is hard to replicate with other sweeteners. It can cover off notes from other ingredients or help cover up sourness/saltiness/bitterness. It provides calories and energy, which could be desirable depending on the product’s positioning.”

One way to overcome sugar reduction challenges is by incorporating a natural sweetness enhancer. Sensient’s TrueBoost Sweetness is designed to elevate the sweetness sensation and reduce sugar content by up to 40% without compromising the familiar sweet taste. The best results are achievable when paired with Smoothenol, our natural and effective masking solution.

Ready to discover the sweet benefits of less sugar? Let’s partner together to address your toughest taste challenges. Let’s be taste buds!