Plant-Based Sweetener Innovations to Watch

The plant-based category is humming with natural sweetener innovation as artificial alternatives face mounting scrutiny from consumers and government regulators.

According to the International Food Information Council’s 2023 Food and Health Survey, 72% of respondents said they were trying to limit or avoid sugars. The study also notes that consumers prefer sugar to artificial sweeteners.

“Millennials and centennials are becoming increasingly mindful about how they choose to indulge,” William Angleys, sales director at Barry Callebaut brand, Cabosse Naturals, told The Food Institute. “They want healthier well-being options, but also tasty options.”

On the heels of The World Health Organization’s recent controversial declaration that aspartame is a “possible carcinogen,” demand for naturally derived sweetener alternatives shows no signs of slowing. In April 2023, for instance, Coca-Cola began testing a Diet Coke variant that substitutes the artificial sweetener with a plant-based blend of monk fruit and stevia.

Here are a few up-and-coming natural sweeteners that leverage food industry trends like food technology and sustainability.

Tapping Into Truffles

In July, MycoTechnology announced the discovery of a sweet protein originating from honey truffles that delivers an intense, natural sweetness without the lingering aftertaste of common sugar replacements.

The Colorado-based food tech company believes this newly discovered ingredient has the potential to disrupt the conventional sugar and manufactured sweeteners market.

“Our honey truffle sweetener is derived from a protein, which brings an unprecedented level of excitement as proteins are widely recognized as the future of sweeteners,” MycoTechnology’s CEO, Alan Hahn, told Green Queen. “This breakthrough ushers in a new era of clean label sweeteners, revolutionizing the way we create foods and beverages without relying on traditional sugar or artificial sweeteners.”

Sweet Tooth for Sustainability

Meanwhile, Cabosse Naturals recently launched a 100% pure cacaofruit powder that the company claims can replace refined sugar in food manufacture. “The cacaofruit’s zesty signature flavor… brings complex notes and natural sweetness to drinks, ice cream, dairy products, confectionery, and snacks,” said Angleys.

In addition to being a naturally derived, the powder is also upcycled from the sweet, fruity pulp of cacaofruit, which is traditionally left behind once the cacao seeds are removed for chocolate production.

“These seeds, or beans, represent only about 30% of the fruit, meaning that 70% — its pulp and peel — is generally discarded, which represents a tremendous waste,” Angleys added. “By using cacaofruit ingredients in their applications, artisans and brands are also able to apply for an Upcycled Certified mark on packaging, enabling consumers to make impact-informed purchases and help prevent food waste.”

Natural Syrups Diversifying

Finally, food ingredient provider Ciranda has developed three new syrups sourced from agave and tapioca, which are also certified organic, non-GMO, and Fairtrade. According to the company, the new sweeteners can be used as replacements for traditional syrups or combined in CPG products including desserts, bars, ice cream, cereals, beverages, and gummies.

“We repeatedly heard [our customers] saying their options to reduce sugars were limiting,” said Don Trouba, director of Go-To-Market for Ciranda, to Confectionary News. “With these new products, brands can now achieve sugar reduction while staying true to their certifications and clean label goals.”