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Tate & Lyle and Cryptobiotix’s breakthrough ex-vivo* study shows that sucralose does not impact the gut microbiota, while other low and no calorie sweeteners have potentially beneficial health effects

A new, first-of-its-kind study has identified unique and potentially beneficial interactions between certain low and no calorie sweeteners, including stevia, and the human gut microbiota. Tate & Lyle PLC, a world leader in ingredient solutions for healthier food and drink, partnered with Cryptobiotix, pioneers in preclinical gastrointestinal research, on the study.

Dr. Davide Risso, molecular biology specialist and Tate & Lyle’s Head of Nutrition Research, led the project to explore the potential impact of certain low and no calorie sweeteners on the gut environment in both healthy individuals and those with type 2 diabetes. The research involved taking samples from co-living adults consuming a similar diet – to lower the potential variation introduced by differences in long-term diet, a major driver of microbiota composition. The doses of low and no calorie sweeteners used were based on actual intakes, regulations and amounts that are generally included in foods and beverages during different timepoints.

Results from the pre-clinical study, published in the leading peer reviewed, open-access journal the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, found that some of the studied low calorie and no calorie sweeteners had no impact on the gut microbiota, while others had potential beneficial health effects.

Using Cryptobiotix’s cutting-edge SIFR® (“cipher”) technology to recreate the gut environment outside of the human body, the research partners found that sweeteners, such as sucralose, do not impact the microbial composition of the gut. Furthermore, other sweeteners, including stevia, have a beneficial impact on the gut microbiota as they were found to be easily fermented and increase the density of certain health-supporting bacteria, with the production of short-chain fatty acids.

The study adds to the strong scientific evidence demonstrating the beneficial role low and no calorie sweeteners can play when used as a part of a balanced diet. Assessments of additional low and no calorie sweeteners, including allulose and erythritol, are being completed and details will be shared in due course.

Dr. Davide Risso, Tate & Lyle’s Head of Nutrition Research, said:
“In this study, the low and no calorie sweeteners we have assessed are shown to have either no impact on the gut microbiota or to offer potential health benefits beyond their established sugar and calorie reduction benefits. Human clinical trials will be required to confirm the potential health benefits. At Tate & Lyle, we’re committed to advancing understanding around the role of low and no calorie sweeteners in the diet and sharing knowledge in this emerging field as a purpose-led, science-driven company.”

Dr Pieter Van den Abbeele, Cryptobiotix’s Chief Scientific Officer, said:
“Cryptobiotix was founded with the ambition of providing accurate insights into the impact and behaviour of ingredients in relation to the gut microbiome. This study provides much-needed evidence to consider the potential benefits of sweeteners individually, rather than as a uniform whole. The robustness and validation work that went into the SIFR® technology used, allowed us to pinpoint specific health-promoting pathways in relation to specific low and no calorie sweeteners.”

*In ex vivo studies, living tissues are directly taken from a living organism and studied in a laboratory with minimal alterations to the organism’s natural conditions.

Royal Unibrew A/S announced the closing of the acquisition of Vrumona, the second largest soft drink company in the Netherlands, from Heineken. Vrumona is located near Utrecht and employs more than 300 people. The company has a strong portfolio of own brands and partner brands supporting the health and sustainability agenda.

Lars Jensen, CEO of Royal Unibrew A/S, states: “I am happy to welcome the dedicated and talented people from Vrumona to the Royal Unibrew family. We are eager to onboard the strong organisation and get started on the exiting journey to establish the company as a multi-beverage platform in Central Europe that will deliver organic earnings growth for years to come.”

As previously announced, Royal Unibrew A/S is acquiring 100 % of Vrumona at an enterprise value of EUR 300 million on a debt free basis. In 2022, Vrumona realised net revenue of EUR 200 million and an EBITDA of around EUR 25 million, resulting in an acquisition multiple (EV/EBITDA) of 12x.

The acquisition is expected to be EPS accretive in 2024, and ROIC on the acquisition is expected to exceed WACC within three years.

Vrumona fits very well into Royal Unibrew A/S’ operating model of strong local businesses with strong local brands with its solid positions in On-Trade and Off-Trade. The company has been a front runner in creating healthy and functional beverages for years for which reason the majority of its business is within the no/low sugar and calories segment. With the acquisition, Royal Unibrew A/S establish a new growth platform and expand its geographical footprint while the company also expand its longstanding relationship with PepsiCo as Vrumona is operating the full beverage portfolio from PepsiCo on a license agreement in a partnership dating back to 1949.

The Vrumona production facility in Bunnik includes seven lines with a current annual output of around 3.1 million hectoliters. The production facility is in a good condition; however, additional long-term investments are needed to improve efficiency as well as to expand capabilities and capacities. It is therefore expected that it will take some years before the platform is able to exploit its full organic growth potential.

As Chinese consumers are more focused on healthier beverages compared to their US counterparts, the country is witnessing a significant rise in consumer low-calorie soft drinks. Low-calorie soft drinks volumes increased at a triple-digit rate in China between 2019-2022, while the volumes grew by only 10 % in the US, finds GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Global Data forecasts that in China, the volumes of low-calorie beverages will record a positive growth rate of 11.3 % in 2023, while in the US, it will be 2.2 %, albeit the US soft drinks market is much more mature and developed. The low-calorie market share in the soft drinks sector was 17 % in the US in 2022, while it was 2.4 % in China.

Dragos Dumitrachi, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: The carbonates category is the biggest winner regarding the growth of low-calorie beverages. Major brands such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi are continuing to invest in low-calorie variants and the trend is picking up globally. In China, low-calorie volumes are forecast to increase by 13.1 % in 2023, while the US will record a minimal 1.5 % rise in volume. “Since 2019, boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the health trend in the soft drinks sector has accelerated across the globe. In 2022, the world saw China and the US clash on multiple fronts. In the soft drinks consumer market, a similar opposing evolution scenario is taking place between the two countries.”

The carbonates category is the biggest winner regarding the growth of low-calorie beverages. Major brands such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi are continuing to invest in low-calorie variants and the trend is picking up globally. In China, low-calorie volumes are forecast to increase by 13.1 % in 2023, while the US will record a minimal 1.5 % rise in volume.

According to a recent GlobalData consumer survey*, when asked which feature consumers are actively looking for when making a purchase, a significantly higher proportion of Chinese consumers (49 %) said it is essential for the product to be good for physical fitness/health, while in the US, only 29 % find it essential.

Dumitrachi concludes: “This data shows that since the outbreak of the pandemic, whilst both markets show a high level of innovation towards low-calorie launches, Chinese consumers are more concerned about making informed health decisions within the beverage space in comparison to US consumers. Manufacturers in China and the US are set to increase the number of launches to capitalise on this trend throughout 2023.”

*GlobalData Q3 2022 Consumer Survey – China consisted of 532 respondents

After the low production in the 2020/21 season, agents expect a limited orange crop in 2021/22 in São Paulo State and the Triângulo Mineiro, due to unfavorable weather conditions. This scenario tends to underpin orange prices in 2021.

The first estimates for the 2021/22 crop, released by the USDA in December/2020, indicate that the harvest in SP and the Triângulo Mineiro should total 315 million boxes of 40.8-kilos each, 17 % up from that in the previous season. Despite this recovery, this volume does not mean the productive potential of crops will be recovered because of the bad weather conditions in these regions.

Thus, a harvest of 315 million boxes is not high, and therefore may not be enough to totally offset orange juice inventories. On the other hand, it should favor farmers’ revenue for one more year, due to the firm industrial demand. It is worth to mention that these estimates may change, since it is still early to assess production, majorly this year. Fundecitrus should release estimates only in May 2021.

INVENTORIES – Data from CitrusBR indicate that initial inventories in the 2021/22 season may be from 240 to 280 thousand tons in July/21. Although this volume is not lower than the strategic level established, the small harvest in the 2021/22 season may limit the volume by the end of the season, in June 2022.

CONTRACTS WITH THE INDUSTRY – Deals for the new season have not been closed. As the volume produced is still uncertain, reasonable prices cannot be fixed either. Besides, in the 2020/21 season, many processors closed deals for the following crop. Thus, a higher volume of fruits from the coming season has already been sold. Still, prices are expected to be positive in this segment, since the demand from the industry should be high.

IN NATURA MARKET – Higher industrial demand should keep orange prices on the rise in the in natura market in 2021/22. As the 2021/22 crop is expected to be late again, the prices of early oranges should be favored, and quotes should be underpinned, since the pear orange crop may be late.

Young Indian beer lovers are leading the way in responsible beer consumption, as the latest research from Mintel highlights that more than two in five (41 %) Indian beer drinkers aged 25 – 34 say they are interested in switching from standard strength beer to low/no alcohol (LNA) versions.

While alcohol moderation is becoming more pronounced among Indians as a whole, with an average of 38 % of Indian beer consumers* interested in switching to low/no alcohol versions, the over 45s (32 %) are less enthusiastic about making this switch.

The top three barriers for beer consumption among Indian consumers include health reasons (48 %), to avoid getting drunk (35 %) and to avoid hangovers (31 %).

Natasha Kumar, Mintel Food and Drink Analyst, India, said: “Responsible and healthy drinking has become the mantra amongst young Indians today. While this behaviour is seen across all age groups with Indians showing interest in LNA beer, it is more noticeable amongst young consumers aged 25-34 years. Brands need to explore opportunities around reduced or no alcohol options since this consumer group makes up a significant majority of beer drinkers in the country. With the current pandemic causing consumers to be even more conscious about their health and diet, the LNA category is expected to grow further post the lockdown. It also offers brands the opportunity to connect with health-conscious and responsible beer drinkers, which will prevent them from dropping out of the beer category entirely.”

Indian beer lovers are watching their waistlines

Shining a spotlight on health and wellbeing, Mintel research highlights that many Indian consumers are interested in trying low-calorie (43 %) and gluten-free (32 %) beer. In fact, over a third of consumers (34 %) say low-calorie content is an important factor when purchasing beer.

“As consumers claim that health is a key deterrent for regular beer consumption, the opportunity lies in expanding beer offerings with healthier profiles addressing concerns surrounding health. Low-calorie, low-carb and gluten-free beers can all appeal to this consumer need. As one of the largest producers of millet in the world, Indian brewers can turn towards this unconventional grain to cater to consumer demand. Countries such as Norway and Spain can act as good reference points for Indian brands to take inspiration for gluten-free beer. Diversifying the portfolio will help brands to expand consumer base to those health-conscious consumers,” continues Natasha Kumar.

Packaging innovations in craft beer can cater to the masses

Finally, Mintel research highlights that the most preferred type of beer includes lager (63 %) and wheat beer (51 %). In addition, craft beer is consumed by almost half of Indian consumers (45 %) and is perceived to be of high quality and worth a premium price, as three in four consumers (75 %) agree that it is worth paying more for it over mainstream beer.

“The popularity of lager and wheat beer indicate that lighter beers are more suitable to the Indian palate. For craft beer to appeal to a larger population of consumers, brands should innovate and introduce more craft beer varieties in lager, ale and wheat beer. One of the main benefits of craft beer is that consumers perceive it is better quality and as such, they are willing to pay more for it. Brands can premiumise their brand portfolio by adding craft beers to target consumers who are willing to pay extra. Craft beer was gaining significant traction in the country, however, the lockdown has caused pubs/microbreweries to shut, limiting the majority of craft beer sales. Bottling/canning could be the next step for craft beer brands, ensuring it reaches consumers with wider distribution, retail stocking and relatively longer shelf life.” concludes Natasha Kumar.

*1,655 Indian internet users aged 25+ who have drunk beer in the past six months

Fever-Tree launched Soda Collection, a brand-new range of delicious flavoured sodas, expertly crafted from the finest naturally sourced ingredients.

Each soda is low in calories and uses no artificial colours, sweeteners or preservatives, making them perfect for creating delicious yet simple spritz drinks.

Raspberry & Rose

Raspberry and Rose Soda is made with delicately perfumed Damask rose petals combined with the juicy sweetness of late-harvest raspberries to create a unique and delicious soda that’s perfect for mixing with pink gin or premium vodka for a refreshing summer spritz.

White Grape & Apricot

Wonderfully tart white grapes and sweet apricots from Italy are balanced with the subtle floral notes of French verbena oil to create White Grape & Apricot Soda.

Italian Blood Orange

Juicy blood oranges from Sicily meet an iconic herbal blend to create Italian Blood Orange Soda. This complex and sophisticated mixer pairs perfectly with Italian liqueurs, bitters and premium vodka.

Mexican Lime

Mexican Lime Soda is made with Tahiti lime from Mexico’s fertile groves in addition to pressed oil extract from the wonderfully floral Japanese yuzu to create a low-calorie soda that’s perfect for mixing with premium vodka or tequila for a mouth-wateringly zesty summer spritz.

The range is available throughout the UK across pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels from March 2020 before launching in retail in the run-up to Easter 2020.

ZoCal popsicles, sorbet and ice cream will change what it means to eat healthy

ZoCal, the California-based frozen desserts company that has created the world’s first zero and ultra-low calories desserts, announced the release of its premier line of frozen treats, including the first-ever zero calorie Popsicle and Sorbet bars.

ZoCal is a treat like no other in its commitment to use real, high quality ingredients such as whole milk, real fruit, and the rare sugar allulose. The result is desserts with:

  • NO/Ultra-Low calories
  • NO Sugar or sugar alcohols
  • NO fat
  • NO cholesterol
  • Good source of Vitamin C and E
  • ZoCal Sorbet

Each five-pack of ZoCal sorbet bars comes individually wrapped in a reusable glass jar. These bars are unbelievably smooth and also boast zero calories. Like all ZoCal products the sorbet bars have no Sugar or sugar alcohols. They are made with real fruit and only have 1g net carb per serving. MSRP: $5.99 for a jar of 5 bars.

Available flavors are:

  • Strawberry Lemonade
  • Blueberry Acai
  • Orange Creamsicle
  • Passion Fruit
  • Zocal Ice Cream

ZoCal Ice Cream is made with real whole milk, natural ingredients, no Sugar or sugar alcohols. The result is real ice cream that ranges from 60-80 calories for the entire pint. MSRP: $6.49 per pint.

Available flavors are:

  • Cotton Candy
  • Key-Lime Pit
  • Burnt Caramel
  • Cookies and Cream
  • Banana Cream
  • Mint Chip
  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla Bean
  • ZoCal Popsicles

ZoCal Popsicles come in six all-natural flavors. With zero net calories, the act of eating them actually burns calories. MSRP: $6.49 for a box of 5.

Available flavors are:

  • Cherry Hibiscus
  • Lemonade
  • Fruit Punch
  • Orange
  • Strawberry Guava Lemonade
  • Passion Fruit

About ZoCal™
ZoCal™ is the first to the market line of zero-calorie and extremely low calorie desserts. ZoCal™ was founded by award-winning food scientist, Dr. Jareer Abu-Ali. After spending over twenty years working with some of the world’s largest food companies, he launched ZoCal as a company that would take the negative health implications out of desserts while retaining all its delicious indulgences.

As this year saw the rise of the sober-curiousness trend, non-alcoholic drinks such as wine waters have a great market potential, due to their natural antioxidants content and their functionality. Wine water, either still or sparkling, is promoted as healthy and naturally functional, with a distinctive wine taste. According to GlobalData’s Q3 2019 global consumer survey, 92 % of surveyed consumers consider that eating healthily creates a feeling of wellness and 60 % say they believe antioxidants have a positive impact on their health.

Ana-Maria Iscru, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, explains: “A new water concept, wine water is different from alcoholic seltzers, non-alcoholic wine and fruit flavored waters, in that it does not contain alcohol but does have a wine-infused flavor, for a more sophisticated taste. The wine essence water from Wine Water Ltd., for instance, was released last year and has already sparked interest. The brand taps into a few consumer trends, namely the absence of alcohol, low sugar content, low calories and an elegant glass bottle packaging instead of plastic.”

Another slightly similar brand is Napa Hills, flavored water ‘with red wine’s natural antioxidants’, but without a wine flavour. PepsiCo also gave the trend a try, releasing a limited-edition rosé-flavored sparkling cola, which was served at the first edition of the BravoCon in November. Moreover, Walmart recently introduced a rosé wine drink enhancer, but it is not expected to come too close to the wine taste.

Iscru adds: “Wine waters are seen as much lower in calories and sugar than actual wine, enough to respond to the growing health & wellness demands. All of this while not ditching the classic wine taste that a lot of people love.

“The category is yet to grow, as there is not a large variety of wine waters, but it has potential in the way it is presenting itself: natural, sustainable and tasty. However, until wine water as a category grows globally, for now consumers are just left wanting more.”