Sweet, sugar-free and healthy: confectionary offers tasty benefits

1st April 2013

Continuing developments in the functionality or health benefits of sugar-free confectionery are boosting an already successful international market. In a report, the Leatherhead Food Research Association states that the trend towards tasty nutrition ahas fuelled a drastic rise in the popularity of products containing health benefit ingredients'.

Most products in the functional confectionery sector are based on bulk sweeteners, so-called polyols, instead of sugar ­ it is obvious that sugar compromises the healthy effect of many functional products, or even is contradictory.

But as after all a food or confectionery product's taste and sweetness are usually its most important characteristics, the sugar replacer Isomalt is playing an important role in this sector. Being the only sugar replacer which is derived from real beet sugar, it comes closest to sugar in taste, providing a mild, natural sweetness without side- or aftertaste.

With its scientifically proven toothfriendliness, only half of calories compared to sugar and an extremely low glycemic effect, Isomalt is a suitable basis for many active ingredients.

For these reasons, the sugar replacer Isomalt is the main ingredient for most sugar-free hard sweets worldwide, although it is also successfully and often used in chewing gums, baked goods, chocolate, cereal products, bread spreads, ice creams and many more.

No limits for functionalities

In the market of functional confectionery, innovation is the key. Still the range of dental and oral care as well as breath-freshening or throat-soothing products takes the most place in the shelves.

Here the most successful newcomers are oral care candies offered as the complement to dental care chewing gums.

Meanwhile more and more candies fortified with vitamins, calcium or L-carnitine are available. Sugar free candies to aid digestion with liquorice, rosemary and mint extracts have a calming effect, and for a beautiful face collagene-enriched products are supposed to make skin smoother.

Anti-oxidant products are designed to fight free radicals, stress-relief products based on herbal extracts and vitamins are to support relaxing, others with coffee or guarana are said to boost energy and even claim asafer driving' because the products fight drowsiness and tiredness.

Cholesterol-lowering products have so far seen the most activity within the heart benefit market, while a Japanese company has launched a red perilla candy to relieve the symptoms of hay fever, another product is supposed to ease the premenstrual syndrome.

Especially in the US, where consumers are increasingly looking for natural products and ingredients, confectionery products fortified with herbals and botanicals are very prominent. There, even a range of functional lollipops, each with its own benefit and made with histamine, belladonna, camomile and others are offered. Immune stimulant products containing vitamins A, C and E as well as zinc and echinacea come close to the range of pharmaceutical OTC products.

Most innovative in this sector are the Japanese ­ the combination of hi-tech ingredients or such as collagene or long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and traditional herbal ingredients in typical flavours are claimed to assist in a number of health issues, ranging from the immune function from beautiful skin to reducing gum disease.

Preferences in functionalities

Just under 5000 people were interviewed from the ages of 14years to over 70 in a study of Palatinit GmbH, conducted by GFK. The majority said that dental care and the prevention of caries were their top priority, next came fresh breath and then added vitamins. Asked whether they would choose rather sugar or sugar free products, only 38percent said that they would choose traditional candies with sugar. 62percent of all consumers opted for sugar-free sweets with a health promoting effect. This mainly stemmed from the desire for toothfriendliness and calorie reduction.

As being in good shape and having a slim waist is the ultimate desire of most consumers, they increasingly become aware of the fact that every calorie counts. How important this fact is especially for children, shows an easy example: only 30calories more on the energy intake per day than is used by energy expenditure, can lead to childhood obesity. First of all, playing for 15minutes instead of watching TV can make a difference for a child, but it is interesting to learn that choosing four sugar-free candies instead of four regular candies have the same impact.

Another tool for supporting weight management is the low glycemic concept. Not only diabetics, but also overweight or even normal weight consumers increasingly are looking for low glycemic confectionery and food products. With lowering the glycemic day profile and avoiding peaks in insulin levels, weight management is facilitated and the risk of heart disease and diabetes is said to be decreased. There is also growing evidence that a low glycemic diet also contributes to overall well-being. Here, Isomalt is also beneficial: As it has virtually no effect on blood glucose and insulin levels, the glycemic effect of a product can be significantly reduced. For example, when a hard sweet is sweetened with Isomalt instead of sugar, its glycemic effect is 12 times lower.

In the sector of functional confectionery, the low glycemic effect of Isomalt as well as its other nutritional properties like calorie-reduction and toothfriendliness are particularly important. First of all, these benefits support and round-off the functionalities. And they can open up the door to several health claims. Today more than 1500 products are made with this sugar replacer and marketed in the wide array of marketing possibilities of asugar-free', areduced in calories' or atoothfriendly', adoes not promote tooth decay' or alow glycemic' and many more. But as still and again the most crucial factor is the taste, one of the most decisive factors for sweetening functional or traditional sugar free confectionery with Isomalt is its pleasant natural sweetness.

Palitinit GmbH is based in Offstein, Germany.


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