Last week, the UAE Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology and industry body UAE Food and Beverage Manufacturers joined Tate & Lyle at its new US$2m Customer Innovation and Collaboration Centre in Dubai to promote efforts to reduce the level of sugar and calories consumers in the region are exposed to.
“The Ministry is committed to implementing the directives of the UAE’s leadership to reduce diabetes and obesity rates by addressing the volume of sugar and calories in food products,” Her Excellency Farah Al Zarooni, Acting Assistant Undersecretary for Standards and Regulations at the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT), explained. “In partnership with the UAE F&B Manufacturers Business Group and through the support of Tate & Lyle, we have created a platform to raise awareness of the opportunities for F&B manufacturers to produce healthier products and provide the necessary expertise and direction to make this a reality.”
Working alongside the F&B industry group, the Ministry has developed the Middle East’s first Sugar & Calorie Reduction Knowledge Building Programme. Tate & Lyle developed the eight-week programme which focuses on supporting food and beverage manufacturers in the region to reduce the sugar and calories in their products. It aims to increase awareness of the ‘latest technologies’ available in sugar and calorie reduction, Tate & Lyle said.
“In the past, sugar and calorie reduction solutions have had a strong and unacceptable aftertaste, as well as being too costly. Using our expertise and working with the latest technology, we have developed new ranges of non-artificial sugar and calorie reduction solutions that have no aftertaste, with many that are affordable and cost effective,” Khaled Khatib, Application and Technical Senior Manager at Tate & Lyle, told FoodNavigator. “In partnership with the UAE F&B Manufacturers Business Group we have created a platform to raise awareness of the opportunities for F&B manufacturers to produce healthier products and provide the necessary expertise and direction to make this a reality.”
Khatib said that these technologies allow food and drink product developers to ‘replace higher amounts of added sugar’ in their formulations without sacrificing taste. “Another benefit of working with the latest sugar and calorie reduction technology is we can create sweetener blends to deliver the right sweetness profile that is close to the taste of sugar.”
Middle Eastern reformulation push
Middle Eastern food makers and consumers are increasingly looking for products that are lower in sugar and calories, we were told. According to data from Mintel, the number of product launches with no, low or reduced sugar or calorie claims has increased by 14% in the region, well above the global average of 9%.
“UAE food manufacturing companies are investing in new product development innovations, and this programme will help them get a faster route to market and maintain global standards,” noted Saleh Lootah, Chairman of UAE Food and Beverage Manufacturers.
Citing Tate & Lyle proprietary research, Khatib revealed 71% of UAE consumers have ‘changed their intake of pre-sweetened beverages’. “Of those, 34% have switched from full sugar to reduced sugar beverages. More than two-thirds agree sweeteners are an acceptable solution to control their sugar consumption.”
Dominique Floch, General Manager for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at Tate & Lyle, elaborated: “As a result of increased consumer demand for food and beverage options with reduced calories, fat and sugar, manufacturers are now increasingly looking to create products that fit within this healthier lifestyle ethos.”
Overcoming the taste challenge
However, Floch stressed, successful reformulation relies on overcoming the taste challenge: ‘how to keep the great taste consumers have come to expect while also promoting a balanced diet’.
Through its new Customer Innovation and Collaboration Centre, Tate & Lyle maintained that it can help address this and accelerate reformulation work in the Middle Eastern region. “By bringing together the key players within the industry, we wanted to create a collaborative approach and help devise strategies that support the government's goals and underscores Tate & Lyle's purpose of supporting healthy living,” Floch noted.
Discussing the specific solutions Tate & Lyle brings to the table, Khatib detailed: “Through our expertise in the beverage, dairy, bakery, soup, sauces and dressing categories, Tate & Lyle’s highly trained experts can support manufacturers across the Middle East region to deliver successful food formulation to reduce sugar and calories, from ingredients and recipes to the application and sensory experience. Tate & Lyle has several solutions for our customers to help them reduce sugar and calories in their products, including Stevia, Fructose and Sucralose. We also offer solutions that whilst not directly replacing the sweetness of sugar, help to produce products consumers enjoy, by modifying the flavour profile of a product. As well as solutions that replace the mouthfeel and texture sugar creates, such as Soluble Corn Fibre and Polydextrose.”
The group has already helped over 20 customers in the region reduce the amount of added sugars in their products by between 20% and 100%.