Food is often a highlight in our social activities. It helps to bring families and friends together, business meetings are conducted over lunch and dinners, and we have get-togethers and parties that are filled with food and drinks. Desserts, especially, hold a special place in our hearts – and on the dining tables – of Asian households. There is no denying that desserts give a befitting end to any meal. They have become an integral part of the region, be it cuisine-wise, or culturally as well as socially.
Rich desserts fit the mood of indulgence. Unfortunately, rich Asian-style desserts are commonly high in high glycaemic sugars. Also, they are often made available at joyous events and celebratory occasions when consumers tend to let their guard down and over eat.
In recent years, consumers globally have been linking sugar with health concerns like diabetes, obesity and tooth decay. Consumers are getting mindful of how much sugar they consume as they grow increasingly concerned over the harmful effects that too much sugar can have on their health. For instance, a recent survey conducted by research company Ipsos revealed that consumers in Indonesia are wary of sugar. More than two out of three consumers (69 per cent) in the country said they try to avoid sugar. Interestingly, Indonesia’s consumers still rely on sugary food and drinks for ‘taste’ (53 per cent) and more than half of them (53 per cent) also agree there are some sugars that are healthier than others.
So how then can consumers enjoy and indulge in sweet treats without feeling guilty?
Healthy food that tastes good
Consumers today have more choices than ever before when it comes to healthy and nutritious food options. Many manufacturers are already incorporating healthier ingredients into their recipes to replace sugar partly or fully. Specifically, chicory root fibres inulin and oligofructose, as well as functional carbohydrates from sugar beet such as the sugar replacer Isomalt and the alternative sugar Palatinose have been proven to be successful for replacing high glycaemic sugars in foods like confectioneries, dairy dessert and baked goods. At the same time, these derived-from-nature ingredients maintain the widely-loved tastes and textures of sweet treats.
Recent trials at the Beneo Technology Centre found that by including isomalt and inulin, the sugar content of a milk chocolate can be reduced by more than 2/3 while conveying the same sweet and indulgent taste as the full-sugar equivalent. There was also no difference in the manufacturing process, in areas like refining, conching and tempering, to create this healthier chocolate variant. Additionally, a recipe for chocolate chip cookie with 30 per cent less sugar was developed using chicory root fibre. The results showed that sweetness, taste and crunchiness were the same as the full sugar variant, yet the cookies were higher in fibre and can carry clean labels.
Additionally, Beneo’s alternative sugar Palatinose helps to lower the blood glucose response of sweet treats. Using Palatinose, the team at the Beneo-Technology Centre developed a low glycaemic chocolate mousse that conveys the same creamy indulgence as traditional with a mild sugar-like sweet taste. This is recommendable as a low glycaemic diet allows us to better manage blood sugar levels, lowers the risks of developing diabetes and supports weight management effectively.
Celebrating healthy choices
The market for “functional foods” in Asia was estimated to be worth AU$93.5 billion in 2014, and is expected to continue growing at 5.9 per cent over the next 10 years.
This is not surprising as consumers today prefer food that supports a healthy lifestyle while satisfying sweet cravings. They are go for a diet that aligns with their fitness goals, that does not derail their weight management programs, and that can help them keep their metabolism in balance. Consumers are more informed than ever, and are wary of mere marketing claims. Instead, they are choosing to look at ingredient labels on food products and doing their own research on health products online. These days, consumers also want to know the specifics on food ingredients and their natural origin.
Ingredients such as Beneo’s range of chicory root fibres and functional carbohydrates allow manufacturers to offer healthier options of traditional food products. They make ideal ingredients for baked goods, confectioneries and many popular desserts. Consumers can now enjoy these sweet favourites without feeling guilty.
[Christian Philippsen (pictured) is Managing Director of BENEO Asia Pacific]