Dr. Oetker Stories

Sugar put to the test

We talked to Dr. Claus Günther, Head of Research & Development at Dr. Oetker, about sugar - and shed light on many currently discussed aspects that have a significant influence on our product development.

Sugar put to the test

30.4.2024 Sustainability Our Food

Sugar is not only a source of energy, but also fulfils many functions in food: it rounds off the taste, influences texture and consistency and has a natural preservative effect. With our products, we stand for enjoyment – and at the same time we are aware that people should eat sugar in moderation. For example, we take a close look at the extent to which we can reduce the sugar contained in all desserts and cakes worldwide while maintaining the same good taste.

In an interview, we asked Dr. Claus Günter, Head of Research and Development, how he assesses the public discussion on the topic of "sugar", what we at Dr. Oetker are doing to reduce the sugar content of our products and what challenges we are overcoming in the process.

"How do we assess the current sugar discussion?"

"The average sugar consumption is clearly too high. Therefore, we are also challenged to reduce the sugar content in our products and we want to do this gradually. In small steps over a longer period of time. Because the feeling of sweetness can be trained. So that means we don't want to deteriorate our taste, our sweet taste."

Many people now also prefer desserts and cakes to be less sweet - but once you get used to a taste, you are irritated when it is changed too significantly. That's why we're gradually adapting our recipes. In doing so, we make sure to adapt recipes so that our consumers taste just as good as before - or even better.

"Sugar in itself is not bad, it's just the amount. In countries like Germany, we consume far too much sugar. That's why we also need to reduce the sugar content in our products." Dr. Claus Günther, SEM R&D Quality Assurance & Management Systems

The topic of sugar reduction is also firmly anchored in our Dr. Oetker Sustainability Charter.

"As part of the Sustainability Charter, we have set ourselves a goal of reducing the sugar content in our products by 2025. 15% for desserts worldwide and 10% for cakes."

"And could you give us a specific example where we have already successfully reduced sugar?”

"Yes, for example with Paula. At Paula, we started sugar reduction back in 2013 and by 2022 we have successively reduced the sugar content by 20 to 25%, exactly according to the motto of small steps."

Also for these examples Dr. Oetker has already managed to reduce the sugar content:

From 2006 to the end of 2022, we reduced the average sugar content of the entire Vitalis range to 18.9% percent* – from 24.6g/100g, gradually to 18.9g/100g.

Since 2022, we have already changed numerous recipes in our range of powdered desserts so that our consumers have to add less sugar at home. An example of this are our jelly and the cold bowl. By autumn 2024, we will be adapting numerous other ranges and reducing sugar in the individual recipes by between 2.2% and 16.7%.

"Is it always so easy to reduce sugar, Dr. Günther?"

"No, in addition to sweetness, in addition to the sweet taste, the sugar in our products naturally fulfils other functions. For example for cakes, cookies or crunchy muesli: crispiness. Or, for example, consistency, creaminess in desserts, but also the shelf life of the finished cakes. Because sugar binds the freely available water. So from that point of view, these are bigger challenges that the product developer has to overcome. The whole thing is then accompanied by sensory tests, because we are always dependent on consumer feedback to determine whether we are right or not."

Finally, we asked Dr. Günther what else he would like to see in the discussion about sugar:

"I would really like to see an objectification, that it is pointed out that it is not the ingredient itself, but the quantity."

*sales-weighted average value in the German market