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How sweet it is … but how sweet does it really have to be?

Taste is still king when it comes to formulating with natural sweeteners – and the challenges associated with achieving the right flavour profiles with stevia and other natural non-nutritive sweeteners is currently complicating finished-product development, according to presenters in the Mainstreaming of Natural Sweeteners track during Day 1 of the Nutracon conference in Anaheim.

As a parent who is trying to teach her two young boys that munching a banana can be as enjoyable as slurping a vanilla shake with rainbow sprinkles, I was happy to hear Foodwise Inc. President Mary Mulry encourage food formulators to focus on creating products that are simply less sweet. As Mulry noted, from a health standpoint, reducing the sweetness profile of a product can be as important as lowering its calories and sugar/carb content. This is a message being hammered home by the Harvard School of Public Health, nutritionists, health practitioners and moms like me.

Natural products that feature stevia and other natural sweeteners are perfectly positioned for helping to promote the “less is more” sweetener trend and educating consumers about its health benefits, Mulry said. Although food manufacturers are often resistant to creating products that won’t immediately appeal to the infamous American sweet tooth, Mulry said she believes less-sweet foods and beverages can help train people to appreciate and even crave such products—which will ultimately help them to make healthier food choices in general.

From my experience in guiding the food choices for my little guys, I know this to be true. Recently, I asked my 3-year-old son what special food he wanted for his birthday celebration. His response? Steamed broccoli.

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