By: Neeraj Kamath, Associate Principal Scientist, Dairy

Yogurt is beloved across North America, especially by parents looking for wholesome snacks for kids and health-conscious consumers. But, with increasing scrutiny of labels, some consumers may be rejecting this darling of the healthy-eating market because of sugar — small wonder in an era when 63% of individuals exceed the recommended limit for added sugars.

To help you keep the glow on your yogurt’s health halo, we’re exploring the challenges and opportunities in reducing sugar content in yogurt.

The FDA's "Healthy" Food Designation and Sugar Limits

The FDA has introduced a voluntary ruling for the "healthy" food designation, which provides guidelines for certain nutrient thresholds. To qualify for this claim, yogurt must meet the following criterion (among others) per serving: less than 2.5 grams of added sugar. Achieving this designation would allow your yogurt product to be recognized as a nutrient-dense food that aligns with current dietary recommendations.

Fortunately, yogurt is an ideal candidate for sugar reduction, and there appears to be ample market opportunity. Just 12% of traditional-style yogurt sales are of products with reduced and no-added sugar claims. However, nearly half of all traditional-style yogurt sales are of products with low, reduced, and no added fat claims. What can we deduce from this? That consumers are looking to yogurt to be healthier, but they aren’t finding as many low-sugar options as low-fat options.

The Challenge of Sugar Content in Yogurt

Reducing sugar in yogurt poses formulation challenges that impact taste, texture, fermentation time, process, cost, consumer perception, and the performance of sugar alternatives.

To overcome the challenges of sugar reduction in yogurt, several ingredient solutions can be employed. These include:

  1. Texturants, Starch, and Stabilizers: These ingredients are vital in maintaining viscosity, mouth-coating, creamy texture, and visual appearance in yogurt formulations.

  2. Yogurt Culture Strains: Carefully selecting and optimizing yogurt culture strains can enhance flavor and texture, compensating for any changes during sugar reduction.

  3. Low- and No-Calorie Sweeteners: Utilizing low and no-calorie sweeteners, such as stevia or sucralose, provides sweetness and bulk to the yogurt while reducing sugar content. This approach offers a sugar-like taste experience for consumers.

  4. Flavors and Flavor Modifiers: Flavors and flavor modifiers can be employed to modify specific flavor attributes and enhance the overall taste profile of sugar-reduced yogurt.

  5. Fiber: Incorporating fiber into yogurt formulations not only adds bulk and mouthfeel but also serves as a source of dietary fiber, contributing to the product's nutritional value.

Allulose: A Promising Sweetener Solution

One popular choice for sweetening dairy applications, including yogurt, is allulose. Allulose offers functional properties and favorable consumer perception. When paired with no-calorie sweeteners like stevia or sucralose, it provides a sugar-like taste experience with significantly fewer calories. Allulose is a naturally occurring sugar that is not labeled as sugar due to its unique properties. It has a sugar-like profile, exhibits synergy with high-intensity sweeteners, does not impact blood glucose or insulin response, and possesses high solubility and freezing point depression.

Reducing sugar in yogurt presents an opportunity to meet the growing demand for healthier options while maintaining the delicious qualities that consumers love. By carefully formulating with the right combination of ingredients, including low- and no-calorie sweeteners, it’s possible to create sugar-reduced yogurts that satisfy both taste preferences and nutritional needs.

Are you interested in exploring sugar-reduction solutions for your yogurt products? Contact us for more information. Let's work together to put the shine back on that halo.

Learn more about allulose here