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Sugar cuts bring carbon gains

Meat and dairy are front and centre when it comes to the impact food production has on the planet. Palm oil and soya have also remained in the spotlight. But could attention soon turn to sugar? Experts at AI data firm Spoonshoot think so.

“[…] sugar crops are increasingly becoming unviable in an era when environmental and climate issues are at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” according to a new report, Sugar reduction: a bittersweet pill.

The report makes reference, in particular, to the quantities of water required to produce sugarcane and sugar beet.

However, it also points to the many food and drink companies that are currently ramping up their efforts to commit to, and plan for, net-zero. In doing so, they will begin to scrutinise their ingredients, including sugar. This could provide a further boost for alternatives.

“As ingredients used in the production of other foods, companies may look to [sugar alternatives] as a means to bring down their own carbon footprint, which in turn, can be communicated to consumers.”

British sugar calculated in 2010 that 0.6g or CO2e are produced for every gram of sugar made.

Replacing sugar is incredibly hard though. It is not only cheap and versatile, but plentiful too. As a result, “no single solution has yet emerged to replace all the functions carried out by sugar”.

Still, with pressure to remove more sugar from more products – primarily for health reasons, but perhaps increasingly environmental ones – investments into research will continue.

Plant-based, non-GMO and clean label are top priorities when it comes to alternatives, Spoonshot noted. Consumers also want to see natural substitutes rather than artificial sweeteners.