Sugar Substitutes: Recent Advances

Demand for sugar substitutes is rising

As awareness grows of the health implications surrounding high sugar diets, consumers are increasingly seeking reduced sugar options and sugar substitutes. Diets high in sugar have been linked to climbing cases of obesity, diabetes and other diseases. The enduring popularity of low carb and Keto diets also provides additional incentive for research and development into low and no-sugar alternatives.

Delivering a desirable taste with low or no sugar formulations is not straightforward; especially when combined with growing negativity around certain artificial sweeteners. According to recent research from Mintel, 57% of UK consumers asked agreed that they would prefer reduced sugar or sugar-free sweets without artificial sweeteners. The result is an increased demand for natural, plant-derived sugar replacement options.

Innovation in natural sweeteners and sugar substitutes is flourishing

There is ongoing research in several areas to address the demand for sugar substitutes and low sugar products.


Stevia has been used for centuries in South America, although its discovery was credited to an Italian botanist in the 1800s. With no calories and intense sweetness, extracts from the plant are being used increasingly as a sugar substitute. Stevia-based sweeteners have various applications and can be used in everything from energy drinks to yoghurt.

Innovation around the use of stevia includes combining with certain fruits to improve the taste profile, enhancing the purity and solubility, and breeding higher quality plant varieties. Food scientists are also exploring other plant-based sugar alternatives, for example, coconut and fruit-based options.

Functional Fibre

Sugar substitutes containing functional fibres such as inulin and polydextrose are on the rise. By replacing a portion of sugar with dietary fibres, these products are not only lower in sugar, but can also aid digestion. Fibre-based sweeteners offer an additional benefit as more UK consumers have concerns over the impact of artificial sweeteners on gut health.

Flavours and Aromas

Research has shown that certain flavours and aromas can have a positive effect on the perception of sweetness. In particular, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate flavours are commonly used in low-sugar offerings, with research into flavour and sweetness enhancers continuing.

Rare sugars

Rare sugars such as allulose, allose and melezitose offer another alternative for sugar substitute product development. Occurring naturally in raisins, dried figs and molasses, these sugars provide a low calorific value and may bring additional health benefits. However, it can be an expensive process to extract or manufacture these sugars, and research into how to use them cost-effectively is ongoing.

Sugar Alcohols

Certain sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and mannitol are already commonplace in many low and no-sugar categories, such as soft drinks, chewing gum and toothpaste. Sugar alcohols offer an intense sweetness with reduced calories in comparison to sugar, and can also add texture. Food scientists are exploring next-generation sugar alcohols to improve the taste and feel while maintaining a low glycemic index.

Learn more

At Uren, our in-house New Product Development team are continually exploring advances in technology and ingredients. We work closely with our network of partners to deliver bespoke, innovative solutions to our customers.

If you have any questions on sugar substitutes or low sugar product development, our team are ready to help. For further information or to learn more about how Uren can support your plans for 2021, please contact