There’s a sour side to sugar-free confectionery. It’s encapsulated by six words: “Excessive consumption may cause laxative effect.” The phrase has long been a feature of the small print on packs of sugar-free mints – just ask any giggling schoolchild who’s dared a mate to down a pack of, say, Smint in one go.
However, the ‘danger’ posed by other types of sugar-less candies might not be so apparent to punters in their rush to grab ‘permissible’ sweet treats. With health top of the agenda, British shoppers are increasingly being encouraged to eschew sugar, and confectionery suppliers are responding with NPD. Take the new sugar-free Fruittella Foams and Gums from Perfetti Van Melle, for example.
One might be tempted to dig in to such products with abandon. No sugar means no fear, right? Wrong. Caution is advised because sugar-free sweeties contain sugar alcohols such as maltitol, which the body struggles to digest. If a lot of the stuff is present, one’s innards will flush it with extreme prejudice. It’s an experience famously documented in grim detail in an Amazon review of Haribo Sugar Free Gummy Bears.
To date, this hasn’t been too big an issue. With mints, you’re most likely pop a few in your gob and then put the pack away for later (unless you’re that schoolkid’s reckless pal). A bag of soft candies, on the other hand, unintentionally invites grazing. And that could be a growing problem among those prone to demolishing a pack in a single sitting, because they know there’s no threat to weight or dental hygiene.
However, it’s a problem that could easily be avoided through greater consumer education. With sugar-free NPD on the rise, clearer messaging about the science of food ingredients and the need for portion control around sugar-free goodies would be a sensible start – and would surely be welcomed by everyone for whom physical wellbeing is front of mind.