Archive for the ‘Sugar-Free’ Category

The controversy surrounding sugar only seems to be growing each year, leaving the the confectionery industry with a quandary regarding the use of sweeteners in its products.

There are multiple sugar substitutes available such as honey, fruit sugar and high fructose corn syrup. However, each has downsides and many are no healthier than conventional sugar.

Stevia, however, is different from most other sugar substitutes: it has zero calories and is actually sweeter than conventional sugar. Coca Cola has already put its support behind stevia, working hard since the mid 2000s to legalize and develop rebaudioside A, an extract of stevia. The company also has exclusive rights to develop and sell rebaudioside A in beverages, leading PepsiCo to develop rebaudioside D, another steviol glycoside.

Sugar Substitutes

Sugar Substitutes

The soft-drink industry is using the anti-sugar movement as an opportunity to expand and diversify their product range: Coca Cola has released Coke Life in countries in South America and Europe, and plans to bring it to the US by the end of this year. PepsiCo, not to be outdone, is set to release a stevia-sweetened version of Sierra Mist in the fall.

Coca Cola partnered with Cargill, the makers of the increasingly popular Truvia® branded products, to research and develop rebaudioside A, with both companies successfully petitioning the FDA to lift its ban on stevia extracts as food additives. PepsiCo co-developed rebaudioside D with Whole Earth Sweetener, a subsidiary of Merisant, the sweetener subsidiary of Monsanto. Merisant’s PureVia®, launched as a competitor to Cargill’s Truvia®, has met success in Europe, though it has not been as successful at home.

Fresh Stevia Rebaudiana and sugar in a spoon

Stevia leaves

Production of stevia is growing at a substantial rate as well, with some tobacco farmers switching to the new crop for which they anticipate a large market. Some say that stevia may one day, in the not to distant future, account for up to one third of the $58 billion sweetener industry.  Given that stevia is relatively new to the marketplace, it is difficult to determine whether it is more expensive to use as a sweetener than sugar. Despite this, the price seems advantageous enough to the soft-drink industry.

While many products on the shelves of supermarkets today may claim to be sweetened with stevia, it is actually a misnomer. Stevia, a plant whose leaves were used as a sweetener by ancient South Americans is currently banned by the US Food and Drug Administration, which has named concerns over its effects on “blood sugar and…the reproductive, cardiovascular, and renal systems.” Instead, these products are sweetened with steviol glycosides, purified extracts from the stevia plant, and are simply marketed as ‘stevia’ giving it a more wholesome, ‘all natural’, image.

One critique of products sweetened with steviol glycosides is their sometimes-bitter aftertaste. Coca Cola has addressed this issue by mixing in sucrose. Of course, this only solves half of the problem, as more than half of the sweetener is sugar. However, research is currently underway to eliminate this bitter aftertaste, meaning that stevia extracts could very well become the healthy sugar alternative that the confectionery industry needs.


Julian Sahyoun



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Overall Impression:

in Business, Candy, International, Natural, News, Sugar-Free, Trends

Day one at the 2011 Sweets & Snacks EXPO, and the show floor reflected the state of the confectionery industry—still booming.

According to the National Confectioners Association, the confectionery industry posted a 3.6% gain in 2010, and in the 52 weeks ending April 17, 2011, the highest performing major confectionery segments based on unit sales were:

Single Chocolate Bars +8.5%
Seasonal Christmas Chocolate +7.2%
Snack Size Chocolate Bars +6.4%
Hard Candy Pkg/Rolls +4.4%
Chewy Candy +3.6%
Licorice +3.6%
Sugarless Gum +2.2%

Source: SymphonyIRI Group

All of these categories were well-represented on the show floor today. Here are a few that winked at me:

Candy Corn Jelly Beans and Mint Chocolate Dips
Jelly Belly, Booth 831

It was just a matter of time before Jelly Belly would take cues from its classic Candy Corn and create a Candy Corn-flavored jelly bean. Officially available in June, Jelly Belly’s Candy Corn jelly beans have a buttery taste with a hint of vanilla. The new beans will be available year round and come in 10-pound bulk cases and 9-ounce packages.

Also new from Jelly Belly are Mint Chocolate Dips. The Mint Chocolate Dips are a new flavor in Jelly Belly’s chocolate-dipped jelly bean collection. These beans are good, too! What I didn’t realize until today is that Jelly Belly chocolate-dipped beans don’t have the typical jelly bean sugar shell; the chocolate layer is the shell.  I also learned from Jelly Belly’s director of communications, Tomi Holt, that the Chocolate Dips are slightly less caloric than regular Jelly Belly jelly beans (3.7 vs. 4 calories per bean). While writing this post, I polished off two mini bags of Very Cherry Dips and don’t feel one bit guilty.

Hard Candy Shot Glasses
Melville Candy Company, Booth 2002
Gummy shot glasses created some good buzz last year. This year, it’s hard candy shot glasses.

The family-owned Melville Candy Company has created seasonal and everyday sets of hard candy shot glasses. I like the swirled variety above—perfect for when “Bridesmaids” and “Hangover 2” come out on DVD. Also new from Melville are lava lamp-shaped lollipops. I took a photo of these today, but since I am a rotten photographer, I’ll leave them up to your imagination. Based on buyer reaction in Melville’s booth, I will say that candy shot glasses and lava lamp pops have serious legs.

Chocolate Krispy Treats
Forbidden Sweets, Booth 2463

This booth was mobbed today. And, I know why. The company’s “Chocolate Krispy Treats” on a stick are creative, adorable, and come in zillions of designs, shapes, and colors. They taste good, too, and have a six-month shelf life.

One of the Forbidden Sweets‘ owners told me that the Peanuts Gallery collection (above, left), was created for and is carried by Hallmark stores. Take a look at the crisped food collection (above right) all on sticks. Love the mushroom and pickle.

Each treat is packed on a sturdy sucker stick in a clear cello bag and measures about 4 inches in diameter. The treats ship 8 per case.

Sugar-Free Glee
Verve, inc., Booth 1456

It’s happened. Verve, inc., the makers of Glee Gum, ventured into sugar-free and now have two products in the category: Lemon Lime and Refresh Mint gum.

Both products are sweetened with 100% xylitol, a sugar alcohol extracted from birch tree bark.

Sugar-Free Glee, like the rest of the Glee Gum line, is all-natural and made without artificial coloring, flavoring, sweeteners or preservatives.

The chewy texture comes from chicle, a tree sap harvested sustainably to help conserve the rainforest. Sugar-Free Glee is also gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, and GMO-free. Packaged in recycled cardboard rather than blister packs, each box contains 15 pieces of gum.

Chocolate Squares for Zzzz’s
Slumberland Snacks, Booth 1876
The Upstate Dream Institute in Ithaca, NY, came to the Sweets & Snacks EXPO with “Slumberland Snacks Chocolatey Sleep Squares: The bedtime delight that helps you sleep through the night.”

I kid you not. (Full disclosure, I have yet to try these nighty-night squares for fear of nodding off in the middle of the trade show floor, but they are intriguing. Additional disclosure: Sleep Squares actually launched at the 2010 Natural Products Expo East Show in Boston, but they’re new to me, so I’m plopping them in this post.)

According to Slumberland Snack’s Web site, the sleep mechanisms in these squares are “Traditional herbs: Blue Vervain, Passionflower Extract, L-Theanine, Hops Extract Brain Fuels: L-5-HTP, Choline L-Bitartate, and Melatonin.”

If I have the guts to try these tomorrow—day 2 of the show—I’ll let you know how I fare. ?The product is currently available in two sizes: a 7 count (one week’s supply) and a 30 count (one month’s supply), and comes in three flavors: Original, Raspberry, and Orange.

Zanies Marshmallow Candy
Spangler Candy Company, Booth 1937

This Christmas, the Spangler Candy Company is introducing its newest marshmallow product, Zanies Wacky Marshmallow Candy. The packaging is vibrant and fun, and I think kids will dig it. Mine did when I showed them the image.

Zanies feature four Christmas-shaped marshmallow characters; Oliver Orange – an ornament, Gretchen Grape – a Christmas star, Sarah Strawberry – a stocking, and Adam Apple – a Christmas tree. Ideal for stockings and secret Santa gifts, kids can collect all four character ornament cut-outs featured on the back of each display carton.

Each 2.5-ounce pack contains 10 Zanies marshmallows.

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