Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Food Companies Transition from Naturally Sweet to Refined Sugar?

In my going-on-five years of sugar sleuthing I've come to understand one thing really well: Food manufacturers know and capitalize on our lust for the white stuff. That is why it is getting increasingly difficult to find naturally sweetened (or non-sweetened) packaged foods. When I started out giving up sugar in 2008, I could verifiably count on a number of companies to provide naturally-sweetened products. Since then some companies have begun to use refined sugar. The horror!

Pamela's cookies The lemon shortbread cookies were to die for. Some (most?) flavors had honey or molasses as the only sweetener. Now Pamela's uses evaporated cane juice and agave. When I wrote to find out why, here was the response:
"I’m sorry to hear that you do not care for the Lemon Shortbread cookies because we had to change the recipe from honey and molasses to sugar. The reason for this is because all of our honey plants were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and the crops have not been replanted. We had to switch over to using sugar, and it is unclear if Pamela is going to switch the recipe back. I will certainly pass along your suggestions to her, but as of this moment, we will be continuing using the sugar."

Izze beverages I love Izze drinks. Yes, fruit juice is full of sugar, but it is naturally-occurring from fruit. I was horrified one day when I grabbed a Birch-flavored Izze from my fridge and glanced at the nutrition facts/ingredients out of habit and found SUGAR in the ingredients. I thought I could count on Izze to provide a no-added-sugar beverage. In my outrage I wrote to the company asking about this. Here is the response:

"You'll notice that Sparkling Birch and Ginger are not listed on the website, this is because these are not fruit-flavored beverages and not part of our permanent line extension. Because there are no naturally-occurring sugars from fruit, we needed to add sugar to achieve the desired flavor profile."  

Uncle Sam's cereal  My favorite healthy packaged cereals. Attune foods has sent me several boxes of cereal to try since I started my blog. In 2011, I discovered added refined sugars which was very disappointing. The Uncle Sam Strawberry cereal has evaporated cane juice added, which I tasted anyway, at 7 grams of sugar per 3/4 cup cereal. It was too sweet for me. But for most people used to super-sweet, this may be the perfect transition cereal. When I questioned the company about this they responded:

"Our intention in releasing these newer flavors (Strawberry and Honey Almond) to the Uncle Sam cereal line-up was to appeal to the vast majority of Americans used to very sweet cereals and we felt that allowing a small amount of sugar might be a good bridge to get them to try the cereal and eventually transition to Uncle Sam Original. We are considering modifying those particular flavors further and with our Skinner's Raisin Bran, we recently adjusted the recipe and removed 1g of sugar per serving (barley malt as the sweetener)." 

 Attune foods They are wonderful at answering questions and they take feedback very seriously. It sounds like they are working towards more/all naturally-sweetened cereals. Also note, most boxes of cereals include a coupon ($1 off or 75 cents off) on the inside panel of the box. Uncle Sam's original cereal is usually $2.25 or so a box, so with the coupon, it's well under $2 per box.

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