When formulating a beverage, the choice of the drink sweetener plays a crucial role in enhancing the taste and overall appeal. Beverage sweeteners not only offer a better mouthfeel but also complement the flavors and acidity of the drink.
Our lead flavor chemist, Bill The Flavor Guy, explains how essential acids and sweeteners are during the beverage formulation process, “You must have the right flavor, the right amount of acid, and the right amount of sugar.”
In this article, we will delve into the importance of selecting the right drink sweetener for beverage formulation, considering the pros and cons of both traditional sugars and artificial sweeteners. With our team of experienced beverage consultants, we can guide you through various drink sweetener categories so you can make the best choice.
Total Sugars vs. Added Sugars in Beverage Sweeteners
In recent years, the Food and Drug Administration began requiring nutrition labels to include added sugars. So, what’s the difference between total sugars and added sugars?
- Added Sugars: This includes the sugar content that is added during manufacturing and production.
- Total Sugars: This includes the sugar content naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables, juice concentrates, and vegetable juice, plus the added sugars.
Types of Drink Sweeteners
It’s beneficial to familiarize yourself with the array of sweeteners and sugar alternatives available in the market. Each beverage sweetener possesses distinct qualities, capable of elevating the flavor profile of your drink in unique ways.
Sugar & Natural Sugar
Often referred to as sucrose, sugar is a simple carbohydrate. Alongside sugar, there are natural alternatives, such as honey, agave nectar, and even maple syrup. However, most natural sugars tend to be higher in cost, don’t perform well in high-heat processing like tunnel pasteurization, and are not shelf-life stable.
The natural composition of these sugars can make them more susceptible to fermentation or crystallization over time, potentially impacting the shelf life of the beverage. If you’re interested in formulating a custom drink with sugar or natural sugars, our beverage experts can assist you with creating the perfect beverage.
Low-Calorie or Low-Carb Sweeteners
The functional drink industry has experienced a rise in beverages with artificial sweeteners. Nonetheless, consumers are still expecting these canned or bottled beverages to offer the same sweet taste without the calories. This has led beverage manufacturers to turn to sugar-free and low-calorie sugar substitutes.
This artificial sweetener provides a taste similar to sugar, with only 4 calories per gram. Aspartame is suitable for various diets and can be marketed as a healthy alternative.
Aspartame is one of the most widely used artificial sweeteners in drinks since it is 200 times sweeter than standard sugar. This sweet feature allows beverage manufacturers to use smaller quantities of this drink sweetener to achieve the desired level of sweetness.
However, something to consider is that aspartame has been linked to several health conditions, including arthritis and diabetes. For these reasons, some consumers will avoid drinks sweetened with aspartame.
A natural sweetener extracted from the Stevia plant, stevia is nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar and with zero calories. Various studies have linked this natural zero-calorie beverage sweetener to many health benefits like lowering blood sugar levels. For all these features, stevia appeals to health-conscious consumers.
However, stevia tends to be pricier compared to other drink sweeteners. It’s important to note that stevia possesses a distinct licorice-like flavor, which can influence the taste of the beverage. Moreover, stevia leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste, which may not be appealing to all palates. For these reasons, beverage developers often combine stevia with another drink sweetener to minimize this off-putting taste.
A common beverage sweetener, erythritol is a sugar alcohol that naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables like grapes and mushrooms. This nearly zero-calorie sweetener offers a similar taste to sugar without affecting blood sugar levels. Erythritol has been shown to be well-tolerated and suitable for those following low-carb diets.
Erythritol naturally occurs in small amounts, thereby making it difficult for large-scale cultivation, which drives up the price.
This low-calorie sweetener for drinks provides a taste and texture similar to sugar, streamlining the beverage formulation process. With a 70% sweetness level compared to sugar, consumers have found its sweetness to be spot on to the familiar taste of sugar.
Allulose is naturally found in figs, raisins, and even maple syrup. Unfortunately, allulose shares a common challenge with erythritol in terms of large-scale cultivation. This can lead to a higher cost in production, which is a factor to consider when crafting your ideal beverage formula.
Selecting the right sweetener for your beverage formulation is a crucial step in developing a great-tasting product. By considering factors such as taste preferences, dietary considerations, and production costs, you can select the right drink sweetener for your custom beverage. At Newport Bottling & Canning, our beverage formulators have over 40 years of experience crafting custom sugar-free drinks as well as beverages that are low in sugar.