Teaming up for taste

by Jeff Gelski
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Not just one sweetener may solve all application needs. Remember, competing ingredients may complement, and sweetener blends may be the best bet for a product.

"We’ve been touting blends for going on five years now," said John Curry, vice-president of business development for Sweetener Solutions, L.L.C., Pooler, Ga. "It seems like everybody is coming around to it now."

In one instance, Nutrinova wanted evidence on how its product, high-intensity sweetener Sunett (acesulfame potassium), blended with other sweeteners. The company hired independent research body Lintech RSSL to conduct trials. Ten trained tasters assessed a low-fat plain yogurt with a 15% strawberry fruit preparation. The yogurts were separated into three groups: those with sweeteners and sweetener blends with no added sugar; those with a blend of sweeteners and carbohydrates; and those with sweeteners and sugars.

In the yogurts with no added sugar, tasters found a 50/50 blend of Sunett and sucralose yielded a sugar-like taste in most aspects and offered excellent stability, resistance to pasteurization and prolonged shelf life. A 30/70 blend of Sunett and aspartame yielded a similar taste profile to sugar, but the aspartame may have a negative impact on stability. The three-way blend of Sunett, sucralose and aspartame provided the best taste profile for yogurt with no added sugar. A reduced level of aspartame in that yogurt promoted stability.

"The results confirmed much of what Nutrinova has established through its long experience in the beverage sector in particular: Selecting precisely the right sweetener blend enables manufacturers to create great tasting products that replicate the taste of their full-sugared counterparts, but with a fraction of the calories," Nutrinova said when reporting the study results in July. "As sweeteners are lower in cost than sugar, partial or total replacement can also yield up to 60% cost savings."

Sweetener Solutions uses cost comparison per lb to show how its new sweetener blends save on ingredient costs. GumSweet, a blend of aspartame, acesulfame potassium and neotame, is 300 times as sweet as sugar. Thus, less GumSweet is needed to achieve the same degree of sweetness. To achieve the same degree of sweetness as GumSweet at the same price, sugar would need to cost 4c per lb, according to Sweetener Solutions.

BakeSweet, a blend of maltodextrin, acesulfame potassium and neotame for use in bakery applications, has a cost comparison of 10c per lb since it is 30 times sweeter than sugar. TwoSweet, a blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium for use in powdered drink mixes, has a cost comparison of 10c per lb since it is 220 times sweeter than sugar.

Sucralose may see more use in sweetener blends if patents involving the high-intensity sweetener and owned by London-based Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. expire, Mr. Curry said. If more sources of sucralose become available, the ingredient may become more economical.

Ingredient suppliers are blending more than just high-intensity sweeteners. Wild Flavors, Inc., Erlanger, Ky., now offers FruitUp, a mixture of clear concentrates from fruit such as apples, pears, grapes, oranges and lemons. FruitUp is available in Europe and will be offered in the United States in 2008.

"Unlike fruit concentrates produced from a single fruit, mixing different fruit concentrates balances out variations in the raw materials and achieves consistent product quality as the level of sweetening remains the same," Wild Flavors said.

FruitUp, a natural fruit sweetener, is designed for beverages. It has a glycemic index of 34, according to a study by the Institute of Biological and Molecular Sciences at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, United Kingdom.

Consumers also should consider blending sweeteners when cooking at home, according to an article in the October issue of Consumer Reports. The magazine tested 13 lower-calorie and no-calorie sweeteners available at the retail level.

"We found that no sweetener does it all and that no-calorie products didn’t bake as well as lower-calorie sweeteners," the story said and added consumers should use a sweetener blend when baking.

Review of studies finds no link between sweetener, cancer

A review of scientific literature found no evidence to support an association between the high-intensity sweetener aspartame and cancer, which conflicts with results from two other studies. The review’s results, titled "Aspartame: a Safety Evaluation Based on Current Use Levels, Regulations, and Toxicological and Epidemiological Studies" appeared in the September issue of Critical Reviews in Toxicology (Volume 37, Issue 8).

According to the review’s abstract, "Critical review of all carcinogenicity studies conducted on aspartame found no credible evidence that aspartame is carcinogenic. The data from the extensive investigations into the possibility of neurotoxic effects of aspartame, in general, do not support the hypothesis that aspartame in the human diet will affect nervous system function, learning or behavior.

"Epidemiological studies on aspartame include several case-control studies and one well-conducted prospective epidemiological study with a large cohort, in which the consumption of aspartame was measured. These studies provide no evidence to support an association between aspartame and cancer in any tissue."

A panel of eight experts in such areas as toxicology, epidemiology, metabolism and pathology examined more than 500 studies, according to the Atlanta-based Calorie Control Council.

"The findings of the review are not surprising given that aspartame brings nothing new to the diet, as aspartame is made up of amino acids and a small amount of methanol, all of which are found naturally in other foods," said Beth Hubrich, a dietitian with the Council, an international non-profit association that represents the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry.

The Ramazzini Foundation, a non-profit foundation based in Italy, performed two studies involving rats and said results show aspartame has potential carcinogenicity at a dose level close to the acceptable daily intake for humans.

More products touting no HFCS hit the market

LONDON — Consumers and food manufacturers may be avoiding products made with high-fructose corn syrup. The number of launches of food and beverage products containing no high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has nearly tripled so far in 2007 compared with the full year in 2006, according to Datamonitor’s Productscan Online database.

According to a report from The Hartman Group, consumers have taken out their nutrition frustration on HFCS.

One hundred forty-six new food and beverage products have been launched across the globe in 2007 claiming to contain no HFCS, said a report issued by Productscan Online. In 2006, there were only 54 new products that made the claim, and there were 53 in 2005.

"Until recently, a handful of small companies said their products were free of high-fructose corn syrup," said Tom Vierhile, director of the Datamonitor’s Productscan Online database. "What’s new today is that some of the larger packaged food and beverage companies are removing high-fructose corn syrup from their products, including Kraft Foods, Dannon and Del Monte Foods."

These product launches are occurring more frequently in the United States. Such products from Kraft include Back to Nature Chewy Trail Mix Bars, Fruit and Grain Bars, and Bakery Square Bars. Groupe Danone’s Dannon Co. has launched Dannon Danimals Xtreme Drinkables Bursting with Fruit Flavor, and Del Monte has introduced the Bloom Energy Drink.

According to a 2007 International Food Information Council Foundation study, 60% of Americans said they were trying to consume less HFCS. In addition, 63% of American consumers said they thought it was "important" or "very important" to reduce processed food consumption.

"Demon ingredient: high-fructose corn syrup," a report released in July by The Hartman Group, Seattle, said consumers are showing a desire to reduce overall sugar intake.

"And as rational or irrational as you may choose to believe, the whipping boy of their frustration is HFCS," the report said.

The word "high" in high-fructose corn syrup gives consumers a negative view of the sweetener, according to the report.

"Keep in mind that what we are dealing with here are consumer perceptions and not objective facts or science," the report said. "We would be the first to agree that some, if not much, of the consumer preoccupation with HFCS borders on irrational obsession, but that’s the reality of the marketplace, for better or worse."

A University of Maryland Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy analyzed studies on HFCS, including literature reviews, commentaries, ecological and epidemiologic studies, randomized controlled trials and animal studies. The C.F.N.A.P., when releasing its findings in July, said not enough research exists to conclude that HFCS contributes to weight gain any more than any other energy sources, including sugar and fructose.

London-based Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. provided an unrestricted grant to fund the research but did not participate or have any input, said Dr. Maureen Storey, Ph.D., C.F.N.A.P. director and a member of the study team.

The C.F.N.A.P. concluded more research is needed, especially on whether HFCS is metabolized differently than sucrose. HFCS-55, at 55% fructose and 42% glucose, is similar to sucrose, at 50% fructose and 50% glucose. HFCS-42, at 42% fructose and 53% glucose, contains less fructose than sucrose does.

"The hypothesis is that because obesity has risen along with the use of HFCS, this sweetener has contributed to the rise in unhealthy weight among adults and children," Dr. Storey said. "This hypothesis was based on the weakest form of evidence called ecological data. What that means is that during a particular time period, two things happened simultaneously. Obviously, many other changes occurred over the last 30 years that may contribute to obesity."

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, September 18, 2007, starting on Page 51. Click here to search that archive.

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