By Michelle Warner
As a budding future R&D scientist, you should already be looking through the ingredient deck on most of the food products you consume. But did you know that there’s a new panel coming to town? By this July, the new Nutrition Facts Panel will start to show up on packaging, and food companies are gearing up for the swap. This new panel changes how consumers view food and ultimately how product developers and food companies are developing alternative and cleaner solutions. In an article by Food Processing, that describes these new label changes, it shows that the biggest challenge is particularly how food companies are trying to deal with the new ‘Added Sugars’ category. I’m sure you’ve maybe looked at the amount of sugar in your ice cream or cookie thins box, but have you paid attention to the sugars in your tomato sauce?
How are food companies going to keep up with the new transparency? Lower their sugar, of course. However, it is not an easy feat. One of the easiest ways that food companies can lower the amount of added sugars, is, you guessed it, by simply decreasing the amount of sugar they put into their food products. But this means that they need to pay attention to the changes that it makes in their product with food safety and quality. Other methods in reducing added sugars is by replacing with ingredients such as chicory root fiber, fruit and honey, as well as non-nutritive and artificial sweeteners. Sweet potatoes are also being used as a sweetener substitute, sweet!.
By summer, you and I will be looking at labels differently, and it seems that we’re all becoming concerned with the same category. In a study that analyzed the definition of “clean label” and what is means to consumers; it showed that different generations of consumers were concerned with the amount of sugar in their foods. This is important for the food manufacturers that are not concerned with the sugar category on the nutrition panel.
Other than sugar, another way that food companies are cleaning up their labels is by switching over to natural colors from fruits and vegetables, as well as spice extracts. However, as you know from class, these changes are not easy. Food safety, quality and shelf-life can not be compromised, and are giving a bigger challenge than ever to food manufacturers and scientists in the industry.