Fruit-based sweetener Sweet Freedom is starting to gain traction as an industrial food ingredient as manufacturers seek to cash in on its 'natural' credentials.
The makers of the syrup sweetener, which is derived from naturally occurring sugars in carob, apples and grapes, initially focused on the retail market, securing listings in Tesco and Waitrose for 300ml squeezy bottles. However, it is now being targeted (via 5l polybottles and 20l tubs), at manufacturers and caterers producing everything from cordials and cocktails to bars, ice creams and flapjacks.
Cookies, muffins, coffee syrups, milk shake syrups, waters, porridge, jams, dressings and sauces are also under development with several products already launched in supermarkets, said Sweet Freedom co-founder Tina Michelucci. The sweetener which is claimed to have 25% fewer calories than sugar, gram for gram can replace sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, gomme, golden, maple, agave and rice syrups. A darker variant is also being used instead of honey in granola, flapjacks, smoothies, drinks, cakes, bars and dressings, said Michelucci. "It is also a cost-effective alternative to maple syrup, which has doubled in price recently. It is sticky when heated, so ideal for binding and sweetening cookies, flapjacks and granola bars."
As it has a low glycaemic load it is a good option for diabetics, she said. Meanwhile, firms keen to highlight their 'natural' credentials were using phrases such as: 'only contains sugars naturally occurring from fruit' on the front of pack, and listing Sweet Freedom on the back as: 'natural fruit extracts (apples, grapes and carob)'. Others were also using 'sweetened with Sweet Freedom' on packaging as awareness of the brand increased through retail listings, she claimed.
One industry source said Sweet Freedom was interesting, but "might be a bit expensive for routine large scale use". Michelucci agreed it was "more expensive than sugar", but said prices were "on a par with a moderately priced honey". Extracted using water and heat (rather than chemicals or enzymes) in the UK, the sweetener contains a variety of naturally occurring sugars and polyols, but less fructose than agave syrup, golden syrup or honey.