12 January - 20 June 2016

Recommendations for gradual sugar reduction based on consumption perception

A study published in Food Research International has provided recommendations for gradual sugar reduction based on findings which evaluated consumer perception of a chocolate flavoured milk containing different concentrations of sugar.

A study published in Food Research International has provided recommendations for gradual sugar reduction based on findings which evaluated consumer perception of a chocolate flavoured milk containing different concentrations of sugar.

Oliveira et al. note that slowly and progressively reducing sugar in a processed product, so that consumers gradually get accustomed to the lower sugar concentrations, is a realistic approach for reducing sugar in a product.  This is similar to the approach used in the UK for reducing salt.  The Department of Health note that a 30% to 40% reduction in added sugar concentration can reduce calorie intake by an average of 100 Kcal per day per person. 

Oliveira et al. wanted to calculate the ‘difference threshold’ for added sugar in chocolate milk.  These calculations will allow manufacturers to determine the maximum sugar reduction that can be unnoticed by consumers.

The team conducted five studies with 50 consumers to determine five sequential difference thresholds.  In each study the consumers completed six paired-comparison tests which consisted of a reference chocolate flavoured milk, and a sample that was reduced in added sugar. The reduction in sugar in each sample increased over the series of 6 paired comparison tests with participants being asked to taste each pair (the reference and the reduced sugar sample) and select the sweeter sample. The amount of sugar in the reference sample was reduced in each subsequent study.

Based on participant’s responses, Oliveira et al. calculated difference thresholds.  They report that these ranged from 5.75% to 7.77%, with an average of 6.66%, of the added sugar concentrations of the reference samples.

Having calculated the difference thresholds, Oliveira et al. conducted further studies to evaluate sensory and hedonic perception of chocolate milk at different concentrations of added sugar. One hundred consumers were asked to taste nine chocolate milk samples and rate each on a 9-point hedonistic scale and select as many of nine sensory attributes that they felt applied. The nine samples chosen were the 5 reference samples from the previous tests, a sample with a 6.66% difference threshold reduction from the lowest concentration reference sample and three samples with sugar concentrations intermediate between the highest and lowest of the other six samples.  Following further statistical analysis, Oliveira et al. found that sugar reduction did not significantly affect overall liking scores. For the individual sensory characteristics, only chocolate, sweet and bitter differed significantly between the nine samples with sugar reduction causing a significant decrease in the chocolate and sweet terms and a significant increase in the use of the term bitter. They also note that as expected, pairs of samples that differed by less than the calculated difference threshold were “perceived as very similar”.

In discussion, Oliveira et al. note that their findings show that a reduction of sugar concentration in chocolate milk by up to 28.9% caused no significant difference in an overall liking. They note this is similar to other studies that have shown little change in consumer acceptance with sugar concentration reductions of up to 30% in chocolate milk but state that a study showing a decrease in consumer liking of a yoghurt with a 30% sugar reduction indicates that “recommendations for sequential sugar reduction is product specific”.

In conclusion, Oliveira et al reiterate that their findings indicate a 6.66% reduction in sugar concentrations in chocolate milk, without consumers noticing, is feasible. They further note that a similar reduction twice per year over a three-year period would allow manufactures to meet the UK Department of Health targets to reduce added sugar by 30-40%.

RSSL's Product and Ingredient Innovation Team, has considerable experience in re-formulating products to provide more healthy options including low salt, low sugar versions and using pre- and probiotics.  Using RSSL can help speed up your development cycle considerably.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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