Clean-label SweetSense developed during ‘critical time’ for beverage industry

Imbibe launched SweetSense in response to growing demand for sweet, clean-label beverages. ©iStock/Rawpixel

Beverage development company Imbibe has launched SweetSense, a clean-label ingredient designed to optimize sweetness perception in beverages.

The clean-label sweetening ingredient was developed in response to the growing demand for low and zero-calorie beverages that maintain a given sweetness profile.

The new natural flavor accentuates inherent sweetness from other ingredients in a product, intensifies flavors, and moderates lingering off-notes that are common when using natural, non-nutritive sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit, according to Imbibe.

“We believe SweetSense could be a game-changer,” Andy Dratt, chief commercial officer at Imbibe, said.

Sugar influences purchases more than ever

SweetSense comes at a critical time for beverage manufacturers, Imbibe said, because consumers are becoming increasingly aware and concerned about reducing their overall sugar intake with many looking to clean-label ingredients to achieve their nutritional goals.

A survey by Innova Market Insights revealed that sugar content influenced the purchasing decision of 57% of consumers in the US, and 60% in the UK.

“Sugar is under pressure, although it remains the key ingredient delivering the sweetness and great taste that consumers are looking for,” director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, Lu Ann Williams, said.

“The quest to combine taste and health is driving NPD, as the industry faces the challenge of balancing public demand to reduce added sugars and create indulgent experiences, while at the same time presenting clean label products.” 

Imbibe anticipates that these concerns will escalate by July 2018 when the FDA is set to change the nutrition facts panel, which will require all packaged food products to label added sugar content.

Alternative to other natural sweeteners

The natural sweeteners market has developed extensively over the past few years as clean label has transitioned from a trend to a standard in the beverage industry. Naturally-derived sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit currently dominate the market, but Imbibe believes SweetSense is an improvement from its sweetener predecessors.

Stevia was used in roughly 4% of soft drink launches last year, and is used in 8% of the total packaged beverage category, including a 13.5% share of flavored bottled water in 2016, according to Innova. 

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