Sweeteners and their continuing evolution
In 2020, the FDA made a simple yet hugely consequential change to nutrition label requirements, requiring a larger font size for the calorie count. This set off a surge in demand for low-calorie sweeteners, as sweeteners usually constitute a significant portion of total calorie count.
Allulose, a synthetic sugar that has a similar taste, texture, and sweetness to real sugar, but has only ~10% of the calories, is consequently becoming a popular ingredient among food manufacturers.
Allulose and its benefits
Allulose, in particular, is benefiting from another labeling trend: it can now be excluded from the “total sugars” and “added sugars” lines on the label, meaning that it offers the lowest calories for a given level of sweetness. As a result, Allulose use has grown at 211% annually in North America from 2017 to 2020.
There are almost a dozen sugar substitutes in widespread use, from Stevia—which has been an ingredient for millennia—to newer compounds like sucralose and neotame. Some of these compounds have a bitter aftertaste, some are simply far less sweet than sugar, and some take a long time to receive regulatory approval. Still, though, artificial sweeteners haven't yet fully disrupted the massive $100B sweetening market, where sugar even now maintains an 85% share.