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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
Allulose, an ingredient that offers important health benefits when used as a sugar replacer, is gaining momentum now that FDA has said it does not need to be counted as an added sugar on FDA’s new Nutrition Facts label.
Allulose, an ingredient that offers important health benefits when used as a sugar replacer, is gaining momentum now that FDA has said it does not need to be counted as an added sugar on FDA’s new Nutrition Facts label. In April, the agency issued draft guidance announcing its decision to allow allulose, a rare sugar, to be exempt from being tabulated as an added sugar, chiefly because allulose is overall not metabolized and absorbed by the body. FDA’s decision was the result of a citizen’s petition filed four years ago by Tate & Lyle (London), who was the first to market a commercial-scale allulose ingredient, called Dolcia Prima. At the Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo in June, company representatives spoke about how FDA’s decision has benefited allulose so far, as well as how Tate & Lyle plans to grow the allulose market.
Abigail Storms, vice president of sweetener platform and global platform marketing for Tate & Lyle PLC, said at IFT, “We started working with allulose nearly 10 years ago…and we’ve taken the world with us in terms of understanding the ingredient. All of that [research] we’ve done went into that citizen’s petition for it not to be labeled as a sugar or an added sugar, and now having that decision in the middle of April has really caused people to kind of wake up. It’s almost like a refresher or a revitalization of what this ingredient can offer and the health benefits it can bring.”
Tate & Lyle’s customers are elated that they no longer have to count allulose as an added sugar. Had FDA not made the decision it did, Storms said, ultimately consumers would find it confusing to see allulose count as an added sugar even if it does not behave like a sugar in the body at all. Until recently, she said, some Tate & Lyle customers would even include lengthy explanations on their product labels to try to explain that even though allulose was counted as a sugar, it is not metabolized by the body and does not raise blood sugar levels. Now, she said, companies can eliminate these complicated explanations on their label.
One thing companies will still likely want to point out to customers, however, is the blood sugar benefits allulose provides. Because it isn’t metabolized by the body, it does not raise blood glucose levels, making it a crucial sweetener for populations such as those suffering from diabetes or prediabetes.
With this FDA labeling hurdle behind it, the next step is to spread awareness about allulose’s health benefits to the industry, to healthcare practitioners, and to the consumer, said Lisa Spence, senior principal scientist, Tate & Lyle, global nutrition, at IFT. For instance, she said, the company is trying to spread the word about allulose among health groups like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Association of Diabetes Educators, “because those constituents are educating clients and patients trying to manage weight or manage blood glucose. Eventually, they’re educating the end consumer,” she said.
The company also continues its research around allulose, such as a dental caries study done last year to explore allulose’s health benefits, Storms said. She added that because Tate & Lyle has been working with allulose for a long time, it has a “massive head start” in the market.
Formulators also like the fact that allulose adds sweetness while, unlike high-intensity sweeteners, still maintaining the bulking properties typical of sugar, plus offering other physical behaviors like browning or water activity, said Jim Carr, director of global ingredient technology, Tate & Lyle, at IFT.
And what of its sweetness? Carr said that while allulose is just 70% as sweet as sugar, it’s sweet enough, to the point that often times formulators do not try to add additional sweeteners to cover the gap. And, he said, if additional sweetness is necessary, allulose pairs very well with high-intensity sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit.
While allulose isn’t yet a household name like an alternative sweetener like stevia, Storms said the company expects that awareness will take time to build. “It took at least 10 years for stevia to reach a significant awareness level…The increasing level of interest will turn into an increasing number of products in the market and an increasing awareness around the ingredient itself. It’s our job to really manage the education in partnership with that growth in use and how it shows up on labels.”