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Alternative sugar sales not so sweetAlternative sugar sales not so sweet

Though health conscious consumers increasingly seek to cut the sugar, alternative options are failing to capture sales. What gives?

Kelsey Blackwell

October 30, 2013

3 Min Read
Alternative sugar sales not so sweet

Sugar is a sour word these days. Eating regimens such as the Paleo and Engine 2 diets, which recommend cutting or severely minimizing sweets, continue to gain steam. And given the rising prominence of “diabesity,” doctors are advocating that we all consume less. “Sugar is a public health crisis,” says Robert Lustig, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist who gained notoriety for his 2009 lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.”

Despite these warnings, U.S. sugar consumption continues to spike. The American Heart Association recommends we consume no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day—yet the average adult gets about 22 teaspoons and the average child ingests 32 teaspoons. The problem is we may be addicted. Last year, 60 Minutesreported that sugar activates the brain in a way that’s similar to cocaine.

There are plenty of healthier sugar substitutes available, but major confusion surrounds which are indeed better for you (remember agave?). Plus, some alternative sweeteners just don’t capture consumers’ taste buds like the real deal. These factors, paired with often higher price tags, have stagnated alternative sweetener sales, which fell 0.6 percent between 2010 and 2012 and account for only 15 percent of the category, according to Mintel. The future success of alternatives relies on products that truly perform like sugar and have clear, tangible health benefits.

5 better-tasting sugar alternatives

There are two approaches to alternative sweeteners: sugar look-alikes working to pass for the real thing and minimally processed natural varieties that often boast added nutrition. Natural manufacturers, not surprisingly, are betting on the latter. Rather than touting these products as sugar alternatives, marketing efforts focus on healthful benefits and unique flavor profiles. The best take advantage of advanced processing methods and better-balanced blends to do away with bitter aftertastes and overly saccharine flavors. These low-glycemic and often calorie-free options prove it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.   

LTE-00015-5.jpgAlter Eco Mascobado Cane Sugar
Sometimes only the real thing will do. In those cases, opt for this unrefined cane sugar from Alter Eco. Certified organic and fair trade, the caramel-flavored sweetener works great any way you’d use the traditional white stuff. It’s also vegan and baker friendly.
SRP: $4.39, 16 oz.

NOW-06927-8.jpgNOW Foods Erythritol
Erythritol might sound like a science experiment, but this sweetener actually occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. Recommend swapping it out for table sugar—it looks virtually the same but is 70 percent as sweet, virtually calorie free and does not contribute to tooth decay.
SRP: $11, 16 oz.

Navitas-Naturals-Coconut-Palm-Sugar-Certified-Organic-858847000277.jpgNavitas Naturals Coconut Palm Sugar (Organic)
Recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as the most sustainable sweetener in the world, coconut sugar palm trees produce an average of 50 percent to 75 percent more sugar per acre than sugarcane, while using only one-fifth of the resources. The low-glycemic sweetener also boasts added nutrients, including magnesium, potassium and zinc.
SRP: $5.99, 16 oz. 

WDN-12565-3.jpgSweetLeaf Sweet Drops
Just a little zero-calorie stevia goes a long way because it’s 300 times sweeter than cane sugar. Stevia is commonly found as a refined powder, but SweetLeaf’s liquid options make it easy to flavor water, coffee, yogurt or smoothies. Sweet Drops come in more than 17 flavors, including Hazelnut, Root Beer and Cola.
SRP: $9.99, 2 oz. 

1523C24_s_hr.jpgBob’s Red Mill Date Sugar
Roughly 55 percent naturally occurring sugar, fresh dates are stuffed with fiber and potassium. So why not granulate that goodness for a better-for-you brown sugar alternative? Suggest shoppers try date sugar in baked goods or sprinkled over hot oatmeal.
SRP: $12.99, 24 oz.

About the Author(s)

Kelsey Blackwell

Senior Food Editor, Natural Foods Merchandiser

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