Erythritol is a sugar replacement for food products that has minimal calories, and has similar flavour and texture characteristics as traditional sugar. Growing in popularity, product launches with erythritol as an ingredient increased 47% between 2017 and 2019, clearly demonstrating the functionality of this sweetener.
What is erythritol?
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol which acts as a sugar alternative in a variety of formulations. Erythritol has only 0.2 calories per gram, compared to sugar which has 4 calories per gram, and can therefore help food and beverage brands limit calories and added sugars in their products.
One of the key features of erythritol is that it keeps the functional and textural properties of sugar in a range of food product categories. It also has 70% sweetness of sugar, making it easier to formulate in various food applications.
With an increased demand for low- and no-sugar options from consumers, erythritol is an effective ingredient which helps achieve guilt-free results for consumers looking for healthier food and beverage options.
What is erythritol used for?
Food manufacturers can use erythritol as a successful sugar replacement in a variety of applications, including ice cream and other frozen desserts, baked desserts, fruit preparations, cookies, biscuits, tabletop sweeteners, beverages and sauces.
It has become a staple in low- and no-sugar food products, particularly fuelled by consumers managing health issues such as diabetes and obesity. Not only does erythritol meet these demands, it also achieves a similarly pleasant mouthfeel as sugar.
How is erythritol made?
Erythritol is a polyol sweetener which can be found in a number of food sources, including certain fruits as well as mushrooms, wine, soy sauce, and cheese. However, when produced on a commercial scale, it's made from corn and yeast in a fermentation process and has a shelf life of up to 24 months.
It is a sugar replacement with a long track record of success; it was discovered in 1852 and received broad usage as a sugar alternative in Japan in the early 1990s. By today's standards, it has zero calorie content, while acting as nearly a one-to-one match for the sweetness of sugar.
Erythritol is a top performer in many formulations and applications. It is available in a crystalline form — including different levels of granulated finesse — and it's heat stable, making it ideal for baked goods. It is often paired with stevia, which allows food and beverage brands to stay within the daily recommended intake levels, while boosting the sweetness thanks to the sweetness profile of the stevia.
Some more of the beneficial characteristics of using erythritol in food product formulations include:
Humectancy, helping products retain moisture
Stability and thickening
In addition to its use in food and beverage formulations, erythritol is also used as a sweetener in pharmaceutical and dental products such as cough drops, medicinal syrups and toothpaste.2
What do consumers think of erythritol?
Erythritol continues to grow in its use in food products, but its name recognition is not as universal among consumers as other sugar alternatives like stevia.
Benefits of erythritol
Using erythritol as a sweetener in food, beverage and even pharmaceutical formulations comes with a host of benefits, both for manufacturers and consumers.
Similar sweetness level
Erythritol is approximately 70% sweet as sugar.
Effects on blood sugar levels
Erythritol is an effective choice for consumers who need to lower their blood sugar levels, particularly those who are managing Type 2 diabetes. In fact, research reveals that it has no effect on glucose or insulin levels and is quickly excreted from the body.4
Good for keto-friendly diets
Similarly, erythritol can be used in keto-friendly products because it does not add any carbohydrates to the nutrition label.
Prevents tooth decay
Unlike regular sugar, erythritol is considered to be non-cariogenic,2 meaning it does not contribute to tooth decay. It has even been shown to suppress harmful bacteria and prevent dental plaque.5
Is erythritol safe?
Yes, erythritol has earned GRAS status from the FDA and also has approval from the World Health Organization. It is approved by governments in over 60 countries across the world.2 Plus, erythritol has been manufactured and extensively studied for several decades, giving it a longstanding reputation as safe for consumption. In fact, it is digested more easily compared to other sugar alternatives, with a lower chance of individuals experiencing stomach issues.
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1 - Regnat K, Mach RL, Mach-Aigner AR. Erythritol as sweetener-wherefrom and whereto? Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2018 Jan;102(2):587-595. doi: 10.1007/s00253-017-8654-1. Epub 2017 Dec 1. PMID: 29196787; PMCID: PMC5756564. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756564/
2 - National Center for Biotechnology Information (2022). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 222285, Erythritol. Retrieved December 15, 2022 from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Erythritol.
3 - Noda K, Nakayama K, Oku T. Serum glucose and insulin levels and erythritol balance after oral administration of erythritol in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1994 Apr;48(4):286-92. PMID: 8039489. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8039489/
4 - de Cock, P., Mäkinen, K., Honkala, E., Saag, M., Kennepohl, E., & Eapen, A. (2016). Erythritol Is More Effective Than Xylitol and Sorbitol in Managing Oral Health Endpoints. International journal of dentistry, 2016, 9868421. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/9868421