Sports drinks

Deliver great taste and mouthfeel — without all the sugar

How to position for success with non-artificial sweeteners in sports hydration beverages

In the world of RTD sports hydration beverages, sugar free/no sugar added positioning is becoming a standard and an expectation. And for formulators, addressing the challenge of removing the sugar and calories while building back expected sweetness, taste and mouthfeel is job #1.

47% growth in no added sugar claims for RTD sports hydration beverages, CAGR 2017-20191

Sugar free is the third most used claim in new product launches of RTD sports hydration beverages, 2017–20191

1Source: Innova, 2021

Three keys to formulating low/no-sugar success in RTD sports hydration beverages

How to best address the dual needs for low/no sugar and excellent taste and mouthfeel — while providing the most customer-preferred positioning? Ingredion's experts offer three top tips:

Gain a label advantage with non-artificial solutions

Many RTD sports beverages with reduced or zero sugar claims achieve their desired sweetness levels with artificial alternatives like sucralose and Acesulfame potassium (Ace K). You can stand apart with a “No artificial sweetener” claim on your reduced or zero sugar beverage by selecting innovative sweetener options like plant-based stevia that can provide needed technical benefits together with a non-artificial positioning.

Balance high potency sweeteners for best taste

Removing grams of sugar in sports beverages intended for hydration brings challenges. You'll need to strike the right balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes for effective performance. Plus, replicating the sweetness of sugar by using artificial high potency sweeteners and first-generation stevia may contribute to unexpected flavor profiles — but other stevia based systems and/or added flavor modifiers can help to balance and overcome these challenges. 

Build back expected mouthfeel lost when removing sugar

Nutritive sugars add more than sweetness — their solids help to add the anticipated texture and mouthfeel to a flavored hydration beverage. So when removing sugars, you'll need to build back the lost texture to provide a more rounded drinking experience. This can be achieved with hydrocolloids and/or a low-caloric alternative sweetener such as allulose, which effectively builds back texture while providing 70 percent of the sweetness of sugar. 

Explore innovative solutions from Ingredion

Take advantage of Ingredion’s expert assistance and broad portfolio of sugar reduction solutions to help solve your low/no-sugar sports beverage formulation challenges. Learn more about these and other solutions:

  • ASTRAEA® Allulose is the breakthrough noncaloric alternative to sugar that brings back bulk and helps enhance mouthfeel and sweet taste in beverages.
  • PureCircle® by Ingredion stevia systems help formulators achieve a clean taste with sweetness intensity. Our PureCircle Sigma Beverage range of solutions gives you control over sugar reduction, taste enhancement, solubility, bitterness minimization and more. PureCircle Flavor Modifiers are stevia leaf ingredients that help mask off-notes associated with functional ingredients, while enhancing other flavor profiles.
  • Ingredion's wide range of hydrocolloids can improve texture and functionality while enabling reduced ingredient usage and cost savings.
  • Fruit and veggie purees and concentrates from Kerr by Ingredion provide a diverse range of fruit and vegetable juices, purees, concentrates, essences, distillates and custom formulations.
     

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