25 Jul Sugar taxes – are they taxing the taste buds too?
It’s a bold claim, but Nestle has recently stated they are able to cut 40% of the sugar content in their signature KitKat without compromising its taste.
This follows hot on the heels of the global introduction of the tax on sugar in a bid to reduce the ever growing obesity epidemic in many nations across the world. In many countries, South Africa included, the levy is restricted to just soft drinks which governments believe contribute to ever increasing obesity statistics.
However, many other nations, including the U.S., UK, Denmark and Mexico have extended this tax to other food items and confectionaries. For food and beverage manufacturers, this sugar tax and shift in political reform has led to the introduction of reformulation and strategic shifts in many of their core products and the way they are produced.
Cutting sugar without affecting taste to meet sugar tax budgets – is it possible?
Reformulation is considered risky business for many manufacturers, as Coca-Cola found out the hard way in the 80’s after a disastrous reformulation attempt. Since then, the brand, along with PepsiCo and Red Bull, have yet to alter the formulation on their flagship brands.
Nestle, on the other hand, believes they have somewhat mastered the art of reformulation.
Nestle and Reformulation
The Swiss food manufacturer recently stated that they have mastered the technique of cutting 40% of the sugar content in their chocolate, while still maintaining the taste consumers have grown to know and love.
How have they achieved this? They have turned to molecular science to alter the structure of the sugar used in their products. Scientists have formulated a way to ‘hollow out’ the structure of the sugar so that is tastes sweeter, yet dissolves faster, thus reducing the amount of sugar ingested.
Using this process, Nestle has stated they plan to reformulate the sugar content of all their confectionary products, including the ever popular KitKat and Butterfinger.
Since the rate of obesity across the globe has quadrupled since the 80’s, Nestle made it their mission to find a solution to this worrisome epidemic. As such, the company has plans to patent this ground-breaking process, which experts believe will lead to competitor manufacturers developing their own, yet similar processes, for reducing the sugar content of their products.
At present, the process of hollowing out sugar crystals of all confectionary products has already begun, with most of Nestlé’s core confectionary range set to be reformulated by the end of 2018.
Nestlé’s Chief Technology Officer, Stefan Catsicas explains how they discovered this molecular process: ‘’Real food in nature is not something smooth and homogeneous. It’s full of cavities, crests and densities. So by reproducing this variability, we are capable of restoring the same taste sensation’’.
To give consumers some scale, an average KitKat bar contained 23.8 grams of sugar. With the new sugar reformulation in place, the sugar content is reduced to just 14.3 grams, which approximates to three sugar cubes’ worth!
Manufacturing giants jumping on the bandwagon
At present, PepsiCo are reportedly experimenting with a similar molecular process with regards to the salt content in their products.
Back in 2010 the company introduced a proprietary salt molecule which promised to reduce the amount of sodium in their savoury snacks, such as Cheetos. However, these products have yet to be released to market.
Will the tax on sugar positively affect obesity rates?
Many experts believe that South Africa’s poorer population will simply adjust to the SBL over time, only reverting back to their old ways of sugar consumption. Much as the same beliefs of experts across the globe and other poorer nations.
The obesity epidemic stems from an intrinsic issue related to a lack of nutritional education and easy access to cheap, processed foods. In isolation, high sugar drinks cannot solely be attributed to the rising obesity rate, therefore many believe that the SBL, will in fact, not be useful in curbing this epidemic.
As previously discussed in our blog on the South African Sugary Beverages Levy (SBL), the taxation of sugar and its success in reducing the obesity rate remains to be seen