While HLL is working on low-calorie pre-mixed tea and coffee mixes, Cadbury is planning to launch sugar-free chocolates and confectionery. “We are exploring options in the sugar-free chocolate segment,” confirmed a Cadbury official.
Other firms working on sugar-free or 'healthier' food products include ITC Foods (confectionery and bakery products), Weikfield (jams and jellies), and Glaxo Smithkline (sports drinks).
Categories that already have approval from the ministry of health for use of artificial sweeteners include biscuits, bread, cakes and pastries, jams and jellies, chocolates, confectionery, carbonated soft drinks and powder concentrate beverages. Several firms have now applied to the ministry for approval for a new chemical sweetener, Neotame.
“Health consciousness, resistance to junk food and increasing obesity are driving low-calorie, healthy eating. Sugar-free, diet foods in markets like the US are growing at over 30%, compared to 5% growth in India. But the trend is catching up here,” said an industry official. Meanwhile, firms that have recently added low-sugar variants to their product portfolios include confectionery majors Perfetti and Wrigley's.
A Dabur Foods official said that its sugar-free juice variant, Real Active, is now growing faster compared to the regular Real juice brand. Dabur is working on more variants in the sugar-free category, the official added.
At the same time, diet variants of soft drinks have not done well in India. The sugare-free range would have probiotic agents-a live beneficial culture which besides helping in easy digestion also builds the immune system. Sugar which is conventionally used for sweetening dishes is being replaced with agents like fructo-oligo saccharide and sucralose.