Dr. Mogelonsky says selling "safety" is the future for sugar substitutes
There's a growing sense of uneasiness among American consumers about the safety of alternatives to sugar according to this Food Navigator story about a new report on consumer trends in the sugar-free market.
The report published last month by market research group Mintel found that close to two out of every three Americans (64 percent) are concerned about just how safe their sugar substitutes are, although they must not be too worried about it since sales of sugar-free foods and beverages totaled a hefty $6 billion in 2005.
This debate over artificial sweeteners is one that can put a wedge between those of us who are livin' la vida low-carb faster than anything else. It's not an easy subject to resolve since there are so many reasons people have for either using or not using them. Let me share with you why I SUPPORT the use of alternatives to sugar.
Before I started losing weight the low-carb way, I was completely addicted to sugar which led me to weigh over 400 pounds and on a one-way ticket to diabetes or even death! I am 100% convinced all that sugar I was eating was destroying my body and would eventually spell the end of my life forever. Do I need to explain to anyone why sugar is NOT a part of any healthy lifestyle?
I was knee-deep into eating sugar like it was going out of style when I began my low-carb lifestyle. From day one I would have to learn to live without this sweet substance which had been such a major part of my entire life. Sugar would have to become something so repulsive, so unappetizing, and so disgusting to me in an effort to help me overcome my addiction. I found my way with my "sugar is rat poison" mantra.
Today, I no longer need to convince myself of how destructive sugar would be to my body and naturally avoid it like the plague. But does that mean I can't have anything sweet anymore? Not hardly because I'm still a sweet-a-holic!
While I have my issues with aspartame and sugar alcohols like maltitol and lactitol, for the most part I see these artificial sweeteners as a much healthier way for me to satisfy my sweet tooth without worrying about how they will impact my blood sugar.
For me, I KNOW I would not have been as successful on my low-carb weight loss plan had it not been for Splenda, erithrytol, and ACE-K, among others. These sweeteners were a lot better for me than sugar and tasted close enough to the real thing for me to never even think about going back to sugar ever again. That still holds true for me today.
Nevertheless, the Mintel report said people losing weight should beware of sugar-free products because they "do not satiate a person's appetite, which could mean that sugar-free food and drinks are actually a liability to dieters."
WRONG-O! Sugar-free foods are not supposed to fill you up, they simply satisfy your need for something sweet to eat. After I eat my deliciously high-protein, low-carb meal and let it settle for a bit, I like to pull some great-tasting low-carb ice cream out of the freezer, scoop it into a bowl and top it with blueberries and whipped cream. Mmm mmm good! When I'm done, I'm done! I don't expect to live on sugar-free products alone, but they are an excellent complement to my low-carb lifestyle.
Surprisingly, according to the Mintel report, consumers believe they have to sacrifice taste when they eat a sugar-free product since eight out of ten surveyed say that sugar-sweetened products are better than ones made with sugar substitutes.
Hmm, I wonder what products they are talking about because there are some very good ones out there on the market right now that are so good they don't taste like "diet" foods: ChocoPerfection chocolate bars and GoLower bars immediately come to mind. Keep in mind both of these products use non-traditional artificial sweeteners, such as oligofructose, that are considered "safer" than the more well-known ones.
However, if a product is high-quality and tastes good, people don't have to know it is sugar-free or low-carb.
Case in point: before they removed it from their menu earlier this year, the sugar-free, low-carb cheesecake from Ruby Tuesday actually tasted so good to their customers that they discontinued their sugary cheesecake. In other words, the customers never even knew that the cheesecake they were ordering there was completely devoid of sugar. THAT is how good it was!
With all the advances in sweetening technology today, I am convinced most people just don't realize sugar-free doesn't have to equate to disgusting nowadays. The plethora of alternatives to sugar and high fructose corn syrup are truly amazing.
For example, one of my co-workers is not a big fan of my "diet" foods that I bring to work with me. I've let her try things here and there and she'll turn her nose up at most of them when I offer some as a snack. But there are two exceptions to that: again, ChocoPerfection bars and GoLower bars. Why? Because they tasted good enough to her even without sugar that she didn't mind eating them. Therein lies the key to expanding the sugar-free marketplace even more to a brand new set of buyers who wouldn't even consider getting sugar-free products now.
And that is exactly what is needed in the United States right now with two out of every three Americans either overweight or obese. If they don't want to start eating better by eliminating sugar from their diet, then perhaps an entrepreneurial company may be interested in developing a low-to-moderate cost line of products that look and taste fantastic first and then, oh, by the way, they're sugar-free, too. With diabetes and obesity rates growing like they have, we MUST look at these options.
I truly believe these companies are in development right now, including Pete Maletto's Sugar Sense product line set to release in 2007 as well as another brand new company I have become aware of that is committed to bringing consumers products made with a proprietary blend of sweeteners that are absolutely fantastic. People who are livin' la vida low-carb should rejoice and embrace these companies that finally "get it" where the existing sugar-free candy companies don't.
A big part of this discussion is money. Sugar-free candies and products are generally much more expensive than their sugary counterparts. There needs to be a way to not only offer great taste without the sugar, but also one that is reasonable in cost. You can't blame a person for choosing the 1-pound bag of M&M's for $2 over that little 4-ounce bag of Russell Stover Tidbits for the same amount of money. People care about their pocketbooks as much and even more so than they do their waistline. But if you care about your health, you will make the sacrifices you need to make to eat better.
What about this nonsense about the questions regarding the safety of sweeteners like Splenda? I think I have documented in several previous blog posts that this debate over sugar alternatives is nothing more than an indirect attack against low-carb for cutting into the sales of sugar.
This timeline of events by the sugar lobby against the makers of Splenda should open your eyes to just how vicious they have become to defend their product in the public eye by maliciously smearing their name without cause. The battle lines have been drawn betweeen sugar and Splenda -- AND I CHOOSE SPLENDA!
But, but, but Jimmy, aren't you worried about the dangers you hear about Splenda on all those web sites out there, how unhealthy this artificial substance is for your body, that you don't even realize what you are doing to your body?!?!
Even Senior Analyst for Mintel Dr. Marcia Mogelonsky acknowledged this regarding the survey.
"While the sugar-free market is expanding, there is concern and confusion among some medical professionals and consumers as to the safety of these products," she said. "The public is confronted with an array of facts and statistics that elevate health concerns and raise the issue of whether sugar-free is worth the potential risk."
Consider for a moment this "dangerous" substance: DHMO.
DHMO is Dihydrogen Monoxide, aka the "Invisible Killer." It has been verifiably linked to gun violence, has strangely enough been found at every recent school shooting, is used by athletes to enhance performance, is found in our rivers, lakes, oceans and streams, comprises a major component of acid rain, and even causes thousands of people to die each year after inhaling it. After reading about such consequences to something like DHMO, many have felt the need to create educational web sites calling for the permanent removal of this stuff from our society.
That would be incredibly stupid, though, because DHMO is nothing more than WATER! That's right, as in H2O! This is a perfect lesson in how worked up people can get over something like artificial sweeteners that they can't see the forest from the trees. If we want to get serious about helping people lose weight, then we have to get past all this scaremongering.
Discouraging people from taking the necessary steps forward in the direction of healthy living may have to include foods made with artificial sweeteners. Anyone who denies the advantages of using these products doesn't understand what it's like to be in that position of desperation wanting so badly to lose weight. You don't want to feel deprived, but you want and NEED products that will give you the satisfaction you are looking for regarding something sweet to eat.
Some have said these artificial sweeteners actually make you want and crave sugar. Say what?! That has NOT been my experience at all during my weight loss and weight maintenance phases. If I do want something sweet to eat or drink, I use one of my sugar-free options with confidence. Most of them have very few or zero carbs and taste fantastic! I don't feel guilty or gluttunous when I'm eating them either because they are legal. Of course, I wouldn't eat a whole box of ChocoPerfection or GoLower bars (if I did, then the fiber in them alone would let me know it within an hour of eating them!).
Dr. Mogelonsky said people are using the sugar-free products, but they are being smart with them by controlling their urge to overindulge.
"The uncertainty [over the safety of sugar alternative] is not stopping people from using sugar-free products, but as far as consumers are concerned, moderation is key once they have chosen the substitute they feel is safest," Dr. Mogelonsky stated.
Of course, their choice to moderate their intake may have to do with the fact that the stomach-exploding maltitol is found in the vast majority of sugar-free products these days and people just don't like all the gas and diarreah that those products cause! Hmmm? Ya think?
Maybe all that maltitol is what is leading people back to sugar in rebellion over getting sick to their stomach.
“It is likely that weight watchers would rather splurge on a smaller version of the real thing when it comes to dessert, as opposed to eating a sugar substitute version,” the report found.
Consider this: is it better to eat just a small bite of a sugary dessert or a normal-sized portion of a sugar-free product? I don't know about you, but a little nibble of something just doesn't cut it for me. It's like the Lay's potato chips commercial that said, "Betcha can't eat just one." YOU'RE RIGHT, I CAN'T! If I ate just a bite of a sugar-laden dessert, then I'd end up eating the whole thing! Can I get a witness? This really all goes back to a common theme I talk about quite often here at the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog -- making good choices.
There is definitely a clear market for any company, Dr. Mogelonsky added, who can convince the public their alternative to sugar not only tastes great, but has also scientifically been shown to be completely safe for human consumption.
"The majority of consumers believe that some artificial sweeteners are safer than others, giving producers the chance to win customers' trust by focusing on their safety," she added.
That's where the future of the sugar-free market lies in 2006. New products made with new sweeteners are being tested behind-the-scenes right now to tap into this growing market that is expected to climb to at least $7.5 billion industry in less than three years from now. That could grow even more as new technologies arise and if the FDA stops dragging its feet on approving such all-natural sweetener products like stevia.
Additionally, I think restaurants will need to eventually jump back on the sugar-free dessert bandwagon at some point with so many of their consumers looking for something sweet to eat that doesn't have sugar in it to manage their weight and diabetes. It will have to come at some point when these corporate dummies finally get a clue.
The debate over artificial sweeteners will not be going away as long as people have an opinion about them. I for one will keep on using them and continue spending my money on the good ones. What about you? Do you have a story, good or bad, about artificial sweeteners? Do you agree with me that they are a good fit for people who are livin' la vida low-carb? Or am I all wet on this one and you think sugar and all forms of sugar alternatives are of the devil (that's bad, by the way -- LOL!)? Share your comments by clicking on the link below.