Progress is being made in making lower-sugar ice cream, yogurt and flavored milk more palatable to consumers, say Journal of Dairy Science® researchers — ScienceDaily

Dairy products are popular with consumers and sales bring in over $125 billion per year (IDFA, 2017). With the popularity of dairy products comes new consumer demands for healthier, lower calorie products that taste just like their higher calorie counterparts. In a report published in the Journal of Dairy Science researchers are examining the options available to the dairy industry to reduce sugar in products such as ice cream, yogurt and flavored milk without sacrificing flavor.

Public health and consumer attention to health has increased over the past 20 years, resulting in a major push for healthier food choices, including dairy products. Overconsumption of sugar, for example, can contribute to a host of problems such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dental cavities.

“Dairy is a big market,” explained lead researcher MaryAnne Drake, PhD, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor, Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences, Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC , USA. “The dilemma of how to reduce sugar content without sacrificing flavor and negatively affecting product sales is a challenge because sugar plays an important role in dairy products, not only in terms of flavor, but also texture, color and viscosity Substituting sugar can have negative effects, making substitution inherently difficult.

Dairy products like ice cream, yogurt, and flavored milk are potentially high in unwanted added sugars. Some of the standard processes for developing healthier food products, such as reducing fat, sugar, and salt, result in unacceptable flavor. The perception of sweet taste can also be affected by the texture of the food matrix and the presence of fat. Other sugar reduction techniques include lactose hydrolysis, ultrafiltration, and direct reduction. In this review, researchers review recent studies to assess the role of sugar, alternative sweeteners, and sugar reduction in ice cream, yogurt, and flavored milk and discuss options available to the dairy industry.

Ice cream

Ice cream is one of the most consumed dairy products in the world. To obtain the sweet taste desired by consumers, it is necessary to add between 10 and 14% of sugar. Studies have shown that products with reduced sugar and fat content, such as ice cream, have a higher propensity for a bitter aftertaste and a lower intensity of creaminess. Some of the promising options found by the researchers include:

  • Low-calorie ice cream sweetened with sorbitol and sucralose had the highest acceptance over other “light” vanilla ice cream or ice cream with a minimum 25% reduction in total energy, sugar, or fat.
  • Erythritol and lactitol are sugar alcohols that have been used to create low-calorie ice cream. Erythritol is more commonly used for sugar reduction in ice cream because it provides volume and texture and is only a fraction of the calories of sucrose.
  • Chocolate ice creams are usually formulated with a higher sugar content to decrease the bitterness associated with cocoa. When the sugar is reduced, not only does the ice cream taste more bitter, it also tastes less chocolatey. In one study, researchers offered a solution by marketing reduced-sugar chocolate ice cream to dark chocolate lovers, who already desire and tolerate significantly higher levels of bitterness.
  • Frozen yogurt is often considered a healthy alternative to ice cream due to its low fat content and presence of lactic acid bacteria, even when frozen, but the sugar content is generally the same as frozen yogurt. regular ice cream. A study on frozen yogurt determined that substituting inulin and isomalt for sugar and fat resulted in similar sweetness and reduced fat with no added sugar.


Yogurt is generally recognized as a healthy food due to its nutritional content, but it is usually sweetened with sugar to increase its flavor. Several studies have reported that the taste of yogurt is influenced by texture, aroma and taste and that sweetness is an important element.

  • Several studies have shown that blends of non-nutritive sweeteners have been very successful in reducing the sugar content of yogurt.
  • A study reported that it was possible to successfully produce probiotic yogurt using sweeteners without affecting the viability of probiotic microorganisms. Adding non-nutritive sweeteners did not negatively affect the yogurt-making process because sweeteners do not break down over time.

flavored milk

Flavored milk is popular with children and adults due to its distinctive taste and ability to meet the dietary needs of dairy products in the United States. Studies have shown that flavored milk increases milk intake. Chocolate milk, the most popular flavor, generally has a higher sugar content and is therefore a frequent target for sugar reduction techniques. However, reducing the sugar in chocolate milk is quite expensive, and many principals choose the higher sugar alternative to cut costs or choose to eliminate chocolate milk altogether. There have been several studies on alternative ways to reduce sugar calories in chocolate milk with conflicting results.

  • One study showed that removing a chocolate milk option meant that three or four additional foods had to be added to the diet to replace the nutrients in milk, adding extra calories and costs. Therefore, reduced sugar chocolate milk should be considered the cheaper alternative.
  • In another study, parents preferred natural non-nutritive sweeteners over nutritious sweeteners as the source of sweetener in chocolate milk.
  • Some studies have shown that added sugar can be directly reduced in chocolate milk and still be accepted by children and adults if it does not exceed 30%.

Overall, the most effective techniques for reducing sugar in dairy products involve replacing sugar with non-nutritive sweeteners, whether natural or artificial, as these provide the sweet taste desired by consumers without added calories. Methods of direct reduction of sugars and hydrolysis of lactose are also promising.

“Understanding current sugar reduction techniques, research and consumer response to sugar reduction in dairy products is important for dairy manufacturers to design and manufacture reduced sugar products,” said noted Dr. Drake. “Reducing sugar is an inherently difficult task due to the many functions of sugar in food products, but progress is being made in developing products that are acceptable to consumers.”

“Reducing sugar is everyone’s responsibility to improve individual and public health and this position paper is timely to highlight the options available to the dairy industry,” commented Siva Kaliappan, Vice President of the commodity research, National Dairy Council, Rosemont, Illinois, USA.

Source of the story:

Material provided by Elsevier. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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