The Bitter Reality of No Sugar Added Products

The peak of the monsoon in August marks the start of the festive season in India. It’s also that time of year when everyone indulges their sweet tooth. Diet goals go hand in hand and it becomes difficult to control your blood sugar levels.

But many startups now promise a guilt-free experience. A week before Raksha Bandhan, an Indian festival where siblings exchange gifts and sweets, social media platforms were flooded with advertisements of mithai (sweets) with no added sugar from Mumbai-based dessert brand Noto.

This Gulab Jamun, a fried ball of milk solids drenched in a sweet syrup, may be available without added sugar, it’s kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? Noto founder Varun Sheth said The Ken that it took him a year to faithfully imitate the taste of this famous Indian candy by mixing three types of sweeteners – processed in the laboratory



Polyols are a class of laboratory processed chemicals derived from sugar compounds, sweet but with lower calorific values

(maltitol, erythritol, isomalt), stevia, and

fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)

fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are plant sugars found in many fruits and vegetables. They can also be made in the laboratory and are used as prebiotics.


As tempting as it may seem, lab-processed sweeteners have their own bitter side. Example: While a regular Gulab Jamun contains nearly 20g of sugar, a 32g piece of Noto’s Gulab Jamun contains 27g of lab-processed sweeteners.

And that’s a lot of sugar substitutes, especially when there’s not yet conclusive evidence of their health effects.

“Currently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has no data on the long-term effects of foods that contain a combination of the aforementioned polyols,” a member of the Authority’s expert panel said. , requesting anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the media.

This is precisely why startups like The Whole Truth Foods and Happy Jars, which make chocolate and nut butter, have avoided these additives. They instead use natural sweeteners such as dates and jaggery.

However, natural sweeteners also add significantly to the total sugar content. The Whole Truth No Sugar Added 55% Dark Chocolate still contains 34g of sugar per 100g. Interestingly, the bar’s packaging claims that using dates as a sweetener guarantees “guilt-free chocolate (and the insulin spike).”

Ideally, The Whole Truth should have sought pre-approval to make this claim.

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