Tate & Lyle’s allulose (brand name: Dolcia Prima) has fewer than 0.4 calories per gram (regular sugar has 4 cals/gram), but is almost as sweet as regular sugar (it has 70% of the sweetness of sucrose) and does not raise blood glucose or insulin levels.
As it has the clean taste, bulk and functionality of regular sugar (sucrose), allulose can also be used to reduce or replace sucrose in everything from baked goods and candies to yogurts, sugar substitutes and ice cream. It browns during baking, depresses the freezing point when making frozen products, and is highly-soluble, said Abigail Storms, VP, Platform Management, Sweeteners.
“It offers the taste but just as importantly, the bulk and functionality [of sugar] without the calories, so in things like baked goods, it offers real advantages," she told FoodNavigator-USA.
The frustration, she said, is that despite the fact it contributes virtually no calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar, allulose still counts towards ‘total sugar’ and ‘added sugar’ on the Nutrition Facts panel, which is confusing for consumers and has deterred some manufacturers – who would otherwise be keen to deploy allulose in their formulations – from using it.
“It’s definitely holding things up in the US," said Storms, "whereas in Mexico, where allulose doesn’t count as sugar on the Nutrition Facts panel and is exempt from the sugar tax, we’re seen a whole different level of response."
"Allulose is different from other sugars in that it is not metabolized by the human body, it has negligible calories (0.2 kcal/g or less), it does not contribute to increases in blood glucose or insulin levels, and if included as carbohydrates and sugar (added sugar) on the Nutrition Facts label, it would lead to confusion to the consumer, particularly consumers with diabetes or those consumers otherwise concerned with accurately monitoring blood glucose.
"Allulose differs from traditional sugars in that it is absorbed in the body and excreted predominantly via the urine without being metabolized.
"Consumer research demonstrates that the general public will be not only confused but misled by the current and proposed labeling approach... Results of a consumer survey [of 4,000 US adults] clearly show that regardless of formatting variability of the label, the inclusion of allulose (within added sugars) led consumers to mistakenly believe that the product contained sugars with calories, and that blood glucose levels would be impacted."
Tate & Lyle citizen's petition to the FDA
Quest Nutrition is trying to educate consumers about allulose
Given the potential for confusion, Tate & Lyle has petitioned the FDA to exempt allulose from being listed as a carbohydrate, sugar, or added sugar on the Nutrition Facts, panel but is still awaiting a response, she said.
“Customers want to use allulose, but if they are not getting the benefit of reduced sugar on the label, it’s a more difficult proposition to make and for consumers to understand [especially diabetics that are monitoring their sugar intake very closely],” she said.
“Quest Nutrition is a great example of a customer that is educating consumers about allulose [Quest explains what allulose is, why it is using it, and explains to its fans that ‘The FDA requires allulose to be listed in the sugars section on the Nutrition Facts panel even though it doesn't have the calories of regular sugar’].”
Check out Quest's video below:
Brown rice syrup, agave nectar are still sugars
On the other hand, the advent of added sugar labeling (companies with revenues of $10m+ will have to list added sugar on the Nutrition Facts panel from summer 2018, with smaller companies to follow in summer 2019) will perhaps reveal to consumers that things like brown rice syrup, agave nectar, honey and evaporated cane juice are added sugars from a nutritional standpoint, which right now, some consumers may not fully appreciate, she said.
“Some of these ingredients take on the health halo of the source, but at the end of the day, they are still sugars, and I wonder if people will start thinking more about the amount of sugar as well as the source.”
Allulose is found in nature in figs, raisins and other fruits, but Tate & Lyle manufactures it on a commercial scale via the enzymatic conversion of corn.
“The simple way of explaining the process is that we take the carbohydrate from corn and then go through an enzymatic conversion process to produce allulose,” says Abigail Storms, VP, Platform Management, Sweeteners, Tate & Lyle. “Our carbohydrate source is corn, which enables cost effectiveness and scale. In addition to corn, different sources of carbohydrate could be used such as sucrose from sugar cane or beets. We could also use non-GMO corn for customers looking for non-GMO options.”
While the word ‘allulose’ is not familiar to most Americans, consumers responded well to the concept of a 'low calorie sugar' and the 'best of both worlds – a sugar without all of the calories,’ claimed Storms, while the product offers obvious benefits to diabetics as it doesn't raise blood sugar.
“In my opinion, the name, the GMO issue and the process we use to make allulose are not holding the market back. It’s found in nature, so it’s not an artificial sweetener. For our customers, the bigger issue is the added sugar labeling [allulose counts as added sugar on food labels although it contributes virtually no calories].”
Allulose (also known as D- Psicose) is not (yet) permitted in Europe, but has GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status in the US and several markets in Latin America, she said.