Impact story

Tasty food with less sugar

Our food often contains too much sugar, fat and salt. Wageningen Researchers help manufacturers make foodstuffs healthier while retaining their taste. Gingerbread or chocolate sprinkles with less sugar, for example.

Wageningen University & Research strives to reduce the amount of sugar in frequently used food products by reformulating foodstuffs. The number of people suffering from lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity and type-2 diabetes is on the rise. One of the causes: we eat too much sugar. The government takes several measures to counteract this development, such as the Agreement for Improved Product Composition and the Nutri-Score, which was introduced in 2021. The Nutri-Score is a food-choice logo designed to assist consumers in making healthy choices.

20 per cent fewer calories

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) focuses on healthy nutrition. WUR reformulates foodstuffs to reduce the sugar content of frequently used food products. This is a complex process. Changing the composition almost always impacts the flavour, texture and shelf-life of a product. Finding the correct balance between the original and new ingredients is quite a challenge.

Many businesses seeking a healthier version of their products look to Wageningen for expertise. Take, for example, lowering the sugar content in Peijnenburg gingerbread. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research was commissioned to look for a mix of sugar substitutes that retained the flavour and texture the customers enjoy. The researchers succeeded in developing a product with identical properties and 20% fewer calories.

In processes such as these, nutrition scientists look for ingredients with a positive health impact. A natural sweetener such as xylitol, which is obtained from birch bark, contains fewer calories than sugar. Joost Blankestijn, programme manager Innovations for responsible food choices, stresses that it is also important for consumers to slowly become accustomed to a lower sugar, salt and fat content in foods. ‘Flavour is habituation,’ says Blankestijn. ‘If food manufacturers join forces and take small steps simultaneously, the consumer can slowly become accustomed to less sugar, fat and salt.’

Healthier chocolate sprinkles

Wageningen experts don’t just help businesses by conducting multi-year studies but also by providing on-site advice for specific issues. Chocolate sprinkles producer Delicia in Tilburg attempted to reduce the amount of sugar in their product but ended up with moist sprinkles. WUR advised the company to increase the cocoa content. This solved the problem, and the product now has a 20 to 30 per cent lower sugar content. Wageningen University & Research has helped dozens of businesses with advice in this way, allowing many consumers to enjoy a healthier breakfast with the same tasty flavour.