Sugar alternatives, like natural and organic sweeteners, are commonly found in many beverages, as sugar-free drinks are increasing in popularity. With this trend of healthier drinks being introduced in the beverage market, many beverage development companies are answering consumer demand with drinks sweetened with stevia, erythritol, and monk fruit sweeteners as sugar substitutes.
According to the American Heart Association, beverages, without nutritional content, are the leading category source for Americans consuming an average of 17 teaspoons of sugar in a day. That’s the rich high-fructose corn syrup found in sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks, coffees, and teas.
Although consumers are looking for beverages with natural and functional ingredients, they still expect a sweet taste. This has led beverage manufacturers like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, to offer their drinks with natural sugar-free sweeteners.
How Natural Are These Drink Sweeteners?
Natural sweeteners, such as stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol, are gaining popularity due to their appealing features, including being zero-calorie, plant-based, and equally as sweet as sugar.
Recently, natural, zero-calorie sweeteners have made a tremendous impact on the beverage industry, especially in the sector of functional drinks. But, these natural sweeteners have made a seamless transition in nutritional powders like Naturlax, a sugar-free and all-natural fiber powder.
Sugar-free drink alternatives have been around for decades, and beverage industry experts don’t see the trend stopping.
Stevia is naturally sourced from the stevia plant, which looks like a leafy green plant. Flavorists have found stevia’s level of sweetness to be 300 times greater than sugar.
Since stevia is known for having a bitter aftertaste, beverage developers will combine stevia either with another sugar-free sweetener or with regular sugar. The combination eliminates the bitter taste and enhances the overall flavor of the stevia-sweetened drink. Nature’s Flavors, a natural and organic flavoring company, offers an erythritol and stevia blend for beverages, SweetenFX, that’s just as sweet as sugar and all-natural.
Due to its non-nutritive properties, stevia is the ideal sugar substitute when formulating flavored waters. After all, consumers reaching for flavored waters desire both hydration and a touch of sweetness, while still retaining the desirable zero-calorie nature.
Erythritol naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables and has a 70%-80% level of sweetness compared to sugar. This particular non-nutritive sweetener possesses unique qualities that set it apart from the others.
Our bodies don’t process and digest erythritol the same as other sweeteners. Instead, most of the erythritol passes through when we use the restroom, making it less likely to cause digestive issues. For these reasons, drinks sweetened with erythritol can fit the needs of certain diets and lifestyles.
You can find erythritol drinks in the form of ready-to-drink coffees, teas, and even canned cocktails or mocktails.
Monk Fruit Drinks
Monk fruit sweeteners are extracted from the little round fruit native to Southern China. On the sweetness level, monk fruit is 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Another non-nutritive sweetener, monk fruit doesn’t contain any carbs and has no impact on blood sugar levels. However, due to its challenging cultivation and intricate processing methods, monk fruit stands out as the more expensive choice compared to stevia and erythritol.
If you’re interested in producing monk fruit sweetened drinks, talk to our beverage consultants for additional details, such as vendors and overall cost.
How to Make Sugar-Free Drinks Still Taste Good
If you’re interested in developing a great-tasting sugar-free beverage, partnering with a beverage formulation and development company, like us at Newport Bottling & Canning, is highly recommended.
Our beverage formulators have decades of experience crafting delicious beverages using natural flavors and no added sugars, like Yum Matcha.
Our lead flavor chemist at Newport Bottling & Canning, explains how to get the perfect flavor from natural fruit flavors, “So there’s this kind of pyramid or triangle where you have the flavor, and the acid, and the sugar. And at just the right levels, it’s perfect.”
When it comes to fruit flavors like strawberry, achieving the perfect taste requires a delicate balance of essential components. By incorporating the right amount of citric acid as an acidifier and stevia as a sweetener, you unlock the true potential of the flavor. The beverage sweetener and acid act as flavor potentiators to elevate the taste to its fullest potential.
As sugar-free drinks take over the shelves of grocery stores, many beverage companies are trying to find the best ways to craft healthier, tastier versions of their drinks. By substituting sugar with natural sweeteners, Monk fruit, erythritol, and stevia drinks offer consumers a variety of healthier beverages that are both zero-calorie and sugar-free.