2017 Sweetener Systems Conference

Originally Published: August 11, 2017
Last Updated: March 21, 2021


The 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference (2nd annual) was held on November 7, 2017 in Lombard, IL, USA. It is the industry’s only conferences dedicated to information in the hot topic of sweeteners. Presentations provided impartial, “how-to” formulation advice; and updates on consumer and products trends, regulations and nutritional research in this arena.

GENERAL SESSION SPEAKERS—2017 Sweetener Systems Conference:

Interactive activities included a 2017 Sweetener Products Sampling Station of consumer products and a Taste Demonstration: Balancing Sweet & Sour by Merlin Development.

Sweeteners in the Cross Hairs: How do Consumers Really Feel about Sweeteners & Are These Feelings Changing?

Speaker: Tom Vierhile, MBA, GlobalData LLC (previously known as Canadean and Datamonitor)

Humans are hard-wired to prefer sweet-tasting foods. But this tendency has become worrisome given the global rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. Cries to extend behavior-influencing sugar taxes from soft drinks to other foods like confectionery products ensure that sweeteners will remain controversial for the foreseeable future. This presentation looked at how consumers are navigating these turbulent waters. Do consumers play favorites when it comes to sweeteners? Are views toward so-called “artificial sweeteners” changing? How is this all impacting product innovation? Attendees to this session found out how consumers really feel about sweeteners.

Why “No Calorie” makes “No Sense”

Speaker: Nancy E. Rawson, Ph.D., Associate Director, Monell Chemical Senses Center

The science behind taste perception has advanced greatly in recent years. This has resulted in new opportunities from ingredient technologies and product formulation approaches to a better understanding of consumer preferences. With a goal of empowering the development of successful products, this presentation looked at sweetness perception as determined by two sensory-neural pathways and will convey the latest insights into how these pathways may impact reward, metabolic status and perceived flavor. Additional factors such as genetic considerations, oral enzymes and hormonal status that influence flavor perception and preference were covered. Lastly, the pros and cons of alternative screening methods for sweeteners as tools for ingredient development were briefly discussed.

Where are We Now? An Update on Added Sugar Labeling

Speaker: Bruce A. Silverglade, Principal, OFW Law

The FDA has proposed January 1, 2020 as the new deadline for most companies to list amounts of “Added Sugar” on Nutrition Facts panels. Although the requirement will have far-reaching impact on the food industry from ingredient suppliers to food manufacturers, details on what will be needed are unclear. As the FDA struggles to provide guidance, “simple” questions remain such as what are added sugars. This presentation provided important updates on the status of this requirement and ventured as to what might be changed.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice? Is This Truth in Labeling?

Speaker: Julie Miller Jones, Ph.D., CNS, CFS, LN, Emeritus Professor and Distinguished Scholar of Food and Nutrition at St. Catherine University

Sweeteners in general, and sugar in particular, are on the “U.S. Most Wanted” list. This presentation reviewed the scientific literature to ascertain adverse health effects of sugar and non-caloric sweeteners on diet quality, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dental caries, and mortality. The analysis discussed levels of sugar and non-caloric sweetener intake and their possible physiological impacts including those on the microbiome. Data also showing the possible risk of inadequate nutrient intake when sweeteners are omitted from the diet as well as the benefits of both types sweeteners when used in moderation were covered.

An Innovative Approach to Sugar Reduction

Speaker: Susan Mayer, MSc, CFS, Innovation Advisor, Food & Ag Lead, RTI International

Product developers know that sugar is so much more than sweet, and replacing it is so much more than a formula substitution. So, while consumers love your product, how do you make something they would love even more because it had less sugar? This presentation looked at a framework to re-think product design and how developers can work with their full project team to define what is truly the challenge. It then brought the framework to life with examples of sugar reduction approaches in a variety of foods.

On-trend Ingredients: Polyol Properties, Labeling & Emerging Areas of Interest

Speaker: Peter Jamieson, MSc, Principal and Food Scientist, Atlas Point Technical Services, LLC

Sucrose remains the “gold standard” sweetener for many products. Its functionalities include a unique sweetness temporal profile, ability to lower Aw and depress freezing points as well as provide humectancy and viscosity, among others. As nutritional concerns and regulatory labeling changes increase pressure to reduce added sugars in formulas, product developers have turned to low digestible carbohydrates such as sugar alcohols for assistance. Not considered “sugars,” they vary greatly in their properties including some not possessed by sugar. This presentation provided important information to understand these ingredients and use them effectively.

Functional Properties & Applications of Natural Sweeteners

Speaker: Mary Mulry, Ph.D., Managing Director, FoodWise One, LLC

Consumers and food manufacturers have turned to an increasing array of natural ingredients that deliver sweetness and functionality. Examples include syrups such as from rice bran, tapioca, oats and yacon to more established options like agave. Some of these sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup have garnered more interest due to the rise in specialty diets such as gluten-free and paleo-diets. However, while the attributes of various HFCS are well known, the general cost, availability, sensory and functional properties of these emerging nutritive sweeteners are often less so. This presentation delved into the technical characteristics of some of these new formulation tools to provide practical insights into their use. As one example, the challenge behind matching Dextrose Equivalence (DE) for specific applications was touched on.

Reducing Sugar in Baked Goods: Practical Considerations & Possible Solutions

Speaker: David F. Busken, Principal, Bakery Development Ltd

An estimated 9.4% of Americans (30.3 million people of all ages) had diabetes and 33.9% of adults had pre-diabetes in 2015 according to the CDC. There is a clear need for many to cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates. This presentation, by a lifelong bakery expert who has worked on products through the “sugar free” to the “Atkins- carb free” eras, provided interesting options to reduce the sugars and carbs in your baked goods.  The challenges in doing so will be discussed.  “Flavor and texture count.”