Sugar-free but sugar-powered future

 7 minute read

The future nutrition threatens with high levels of obesity and diabetes rates due to high sugar consumption. Over the half of the APAC customers choose foods and drinks with low or no sugar. Will the war on sugar translate into sweet tax and holding companies responsible or will the shift be enabled by customer healthy habits? The article investigates the future of sugar consumption.

Sugar addictiveness
as a dangerous epidemic

In 2008, the adult US population had an intake of 28 kg of added sugar per year on average, while the recommendation is not more than 13 kg. It is translated in the daily 76 gr and 36 gr respectively. For example, the daily norm can be exceeded twice with a half a liter of Coca-Cola containing 65 gr of sugar. Moreover, a study of the University of North Caroline shows that 77% of all calories purchased in the US contain caloric sweeteners. They are a part of various processed foods like yogurts, sauces, meat, bread. Overconsumption of sugar results in high levels of obesity and the development of diabetes.

The reason for such epidemics is the addictiveness of the taste. While calling sugar more addictive than cocaine might be an overstatement, the sugar consumption has dangerous consequences. According to pediatrician Dr. Green, “Medical addiction changes brain chemistry to cause binging, craving, withdrawal symptoms, and sensitization. Excess added sugar can do this too, through changes in the same pathways as addiction to amphetamines or alcohol. Sugar addiction could be an even harder habit to break, according to recent evidence about how added sugar affects our stress hormones.” Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California and founder of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, claims that companies add the ingredient to boost the sales. “Virtually every item in the entire grocery store is laced with added sugar, on purpose, by the food industry, because they know when they add it you buy more.” Thus, the change should be triggered by both, governmental regulations and consumer demand. Dr. Lustig underlines that there is a need for a drastic change in the food supply.

New types
of sugar

It is time for new types of sugar. Nestlé has announced a new chocolate bar that has a new structured sugar reducing the sugar by 30%. The innovation of structured sugar comes from spaying the mix of sugar, milk powder and water into the warm air. “Nestle has stepped outside of the realm of conventional sugar reduction with its new structured sugar,” says Professor Kathy Groves, head of microscopy at Leatherhead Food Research, “Spray drying is a technique commonly used to prepare dry ingredients. Nestle’s skill has been to develop a method which co-dries the sugar, milk powder and water in a way that the sugar remains amorphous and stable.” This product launch goes along with the company’s strategy to reduce the concentration of sugar. While Nestlé’s new technology is impressive, the company has a patent on it and has a limited influence on the food supply in a whole.

Israeli startup DouxMatok founded by 96-years old chemist Avraham Baniel and his son Eran Baniel is challenging the sugar alternative market. DouxMatok is unique by being neither an artificial sweetener nor a high-potency sweetener. The innovation is a sugar reduction and taste amplification system. It is utilizing a mineral Silica that can be found in green beans, rice, whole-grain foods. Silica is porous and can be filled with sugar molecules creating a stronger tasting cluster with less sugar consistency. Thus, the company has it’s own food-application lab as Silica works differently in baked goods and drinks. “Sugar reduction is a complex interaction of a number of contributors in each application, in each category,” says Baniel. “And you sometimes pull out an ingredient from a mix, replace it by another, and the other ingredients, they react surprisingly different than you expected.” This year, DouxMatox partnered with a leading European sugar company Südzucker aiming to take the novel technology to the largest markets of chocolate, cereals, and baked goods. The innovation truly represents the concept of less is more.

Consumer
challenges

According to GlobalData 2017, 87% of global consumers say that they pay attention to sugar or sweeteners in food and drink products. Melanie Felgate, Senior Consumer Insight Analyst at GlobalData, says that brands started to react to the consumers’ behavior by offering ‘natural’ and ‘low sugar’ products. According to a number of surveys by Euromonitor, Ipsos, GlobalData, consumer clearly see the connection between excess sugar consumption and health. Nevertheless, they meet barriers to acknowledge personal responsibility and shifting nutrition habits. The biggest challenge of all is that humans have the intention-behavior gap. It is difficult to commit to a new diet, regular exercising, or perform an overall behavioral change. The second issue is called an optimism bias when a person is confident that she or he is less likely to be susceptible to the consequences of their behavior. And the last but not least problem is an inability to recognize the problem before facing direct consequences. Thus, consumers do not fairly estimate their sugar consumption and fail to prevent it. The weight of diabetes and obesity lays on the shoulders of relatives and pockets of taxpayers. The social burden of obesity accounts for $2 trillion.

NHS has started a first national social marketing campaign Change4Life to tackle obesity. According to UK’s Foresight report, two third of children will suffer from obesity by 2050 if no change in the population’s dieting will be made. Thus, along with educational videos, Change4Life launched a Food Scanner app to see how much sugar, saturated fat, and salt is contained in the food and drinks. This tool is supposed to nudges a younger population to have a responsible nutrition. At the same time, the campaign urges consumers to “Cut Back Fat”, “Sugar Swaps”, eat smaller meals and have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily. The costs of the first three years of the campaign were £75 million from 2007/2010, which is a significant reduction from the £50 billion per annum obesity price by 2050.

Sugar
power

What happens with the sugar market if humanity will turn towards healthier and more sustainable nutrition? The sugar will empower the world with its electrical abilities. A group of scientists at Virgia Tech can concert all the potential chemical energy of sugar into electricity. The storage density of such battery is at least twice as long as conventional ones. The benefits of the new bio-energy-storage solution are obvious. The battery is run on renewable energy, has a high storage density, and safe compared to lithium. This innovation is a link between biotechnology and biofuels. A leader of the project, Professor Percival Zhang, says: “We believe we can increase its power density ten-fold in the next several years.” By fine-tuning the technology with “better nanomaterials, better enzymes, and better fuel cell design,” there is hope to find a new-edge energy solution.

A sugar-powered battery can also be stretchable and rechargeable. Prof Guihua Yu, an expert in materials science and mechanical engineering at the Texas Materials Institute, developed the first all-stretchable-component using sugar cubes as a platform. The sugar-based battery can be a future of wearable technologies due to its unique abilities. “Materials scientists have been grappling with various stretchable battery prototypes for years now, but what you find in all existing scientific research is a focus on making one specific component – the electrodes, or separator, or the packaging itself stretchable. We have succeeded in making all components flexible,” says Yu. The sugar seems not only sweet but also a future of smart clothers.

Insight Box

An excess amount of sugar consumption has a heavy societal cost. It causes the high levels of obesity and diabetes all over the world. While there is a demand from consumerd for low-sugar and low-fat products, companies prefer to leave these addicitive ingridients in their products. Thus, there is a need for additional regulations. At the same time, there are innovations directed to find alternatives for sweeteners and even those that transform sugar into energy. One thing is sure, the sugar market will always grow.

#diabetes #DouxMatok #Nestlé #obesity #sugar #sugar alternative #sugar energy
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