The natural edge of erythritol

by Jeff Gelski
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A natural bond exists between erythritol and high-intensity sweeteners sourced from stevia leaves or monk fruit. Survey results show the bond may become more popular in reduced sugar products.

Unlike other polyols, erythritol is made through a natural fermentation process, said Ravi Nana, polyols technical service manager for Minneapolis-based Cargill. According to the Calorie Control Council, an international association representing low-calorie and reduced-calorie food and beverage manufacturers, erythritol occurs naturally in fruit such as pears, melons and grapes as well as mushrooms and fermentation-derived foods such as wine, soy sauce and cheese.

Erythritol thus may work alongside stevia extracts or monk fruit extracts in reduced sugar products promoted as being natural. A market for such products exists.

The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2013 Food & Health Survey asked respondents what they were trying to limit or avoid entirely in their diet. In the survey released May 23, 58% said sugars in general, which tied with sodium/salt for being mentioned most often.

Respondents in a 2011 survey from The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash., were asked to name important health-related attributes of beverages. Fifty-one per cent said made with natural ingredients and 46% said the absence of artificial sweeteners.

Erythritol may be used in beverage applications to mask the aftertaste of stevia, Mr. Nana said. It is stable between pH 2 to 10. He added erythritol, which is 65% to 70% as sweet as sugar and has zero calories, also may be used in all-natural products featuring luo han guo, also known as monk fruit.

Cargill offers Zerose erythritol. Jungbunzlauer, Basel, Switzerland, offers Erylite stevia, which is an ingredient that combines the polyol and the natural high-intensity sweetener.

Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., offers Erysta crystalline erythritol. While many polyols work well with high-intensity sweeteners, most Ingredion customers that work with natural high-intensity sweeteners are looking for a similar polyol such as natural Erysta erythritol, said Ronald C. Deis, Ph.D., director of global sweetener development for Ingredion, Inc. and based in Bridgewater, N.J.

Mr. Nana said erythritol does not perform well as a standalone bulk sweetener in baking applications, but formulators may blend it with other polyols or use fibers such as inulin or polydextrose as bulking agents.

Seattle-based Koochikoo, a snacks manufacturer, now offers all-natural, sugar-free baked food items with erythritol. Chocolate brownies and chocolate chip cookies have such ingredients as erythritol, stevia, monk fruit and dietary fiber (resistant dextrin and inulin). A strawberry cookie has erythritol, soluble corn fiber, organic strawberry powder and monk fruit. An oatmeal cookie has erythritol, soluble corn fiber and monk fruit.

Isomalt from Beneo, Inc. has been used as a sugar replacer in baked foods for more than 30 years, said Joseph O’Neill, president and general manager. Derived from the sugar beet, isomalt has a sugar-like taste without any cooling effect.

Testing by AIB International, Manhattan, Kas., and the Südzucker department for research and development involved adding Beneo’s isomalt to industrially produced sugar-reduced chocolate and vanilla cookies, as well as muffins. Results found isomalt was “highly suitable for use in industrially manufactured baked foods.” The tests covered batter viscosity, crumb firmness, short-term and long-term breaking points, and shelf life.

Sensory testing at the Beneo-technology center showed the polyol may mask the liquorice taste of stevia and ensure balanced sweetness in cookies, Mr. O’Neill said. Beneo will show baked goods formulated with isomalt at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition July 13-16 in Chicago.

Ingredion recommends using Maltisweet crystalline maltitol or maltitol syrups to replace sucrose and liquid sugars in snack cakes, Dr. Deis said. Maltitol is about 90% as sweet as sucrose.

Formulators may consider blends of polyols in many applications, Mr. Nana said. For example, sorbitol has good humectancy and is the least expensive of all the polyols. It mixes well with maltitol. It is used in chewing gum, breath mints and other food applications. Mr. Nana added crystalline maltitol is about 85% to 90% as sweet as sugar and 2.1 calories per gram (compared to sugar at 4 calories per gram). Maltitol syrup is 3 calories per gram.
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