But the lack of diabetic-friendly varieties pushes them to settle for the sugary treats. Surveys have shown Tamil Nadu has one of the largest diabetic populations in the country. Yet, only a few shops offer diabetic-friendly sweets despite the market being filled with sugar-free substitutes. “When you are left with no sugar-free options, you end up eating whatever is available. In some shops, there is only one diabeticfriendly dessert which isn’t enough. It seems more like a mockery,” says healthcare therapist Cliff Saldanha.
Many shops attribute the absence of sugar-free sweets to low demand and poor taste. “Most artificial sweet eners leave a chemical aftertaste which makes the dess ert unappetising,” says Manasi Reddy of Sandy’s, which makes sugar-free desserts on request.
Biggies in the industry like Grand Sweets say the relatively low demand for diabetic-friendly sweets means investing in it could be risky.The sugar-free laddu is not the customer’s first choice as it comes at a premium, they say. But diabetics say price is no issue for healthy desserts made of natural sweeteners.
For international franchises like Haagen Dazs, the problem is different. “We don’t have a say in the menu as most of our desserts are imported, making it difficult to incorporate such items,” says Cardin Roby , Paulsons group general manager (marketing).
Eateries with diabetics in mind say their sales are up. “There is a huge demand for diabetic-friendly sweets and customers don’t mind the price,” says Shri Vari Sweets founder Thirumavalavan, who started selling diabeticfriendly jhangris, mysurpaks and mothi laddus recently. Shops like Mansukh’s and Hot Breads use innovative ways to make sweets and cookies. “We make sweets with dry fruits like figs, cashewnuts and almonds and many non-diabetics prefer these,” says Mansukh’s coowner Dhruv Sukhadia.
Diabetic Food Trail has roped in restaurants in four cities, including Chennai, for a diabetic-friendly menu.Conceptualised by Semora Entertainment Works founder Seema Pinto, the twoweek initiative starts on Saturday.