Agreements may sweeten future of flavor enhancers

by Jeff Gelski
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Two agreements made in June will focus on the use of flavor enhancers to reduce sugar and calories in foods and beverages. The agreements came the same month that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released preliminary recommendations calling for reducing intake of sugar. The committee recommended to “significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats because these dietary components contribute excess calories and few, if any, nutrients.”

Senomyx, Inc., San Diego, on June 24 said the company and PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y., have signed an agreement and entered into a 60-day negotiation period related to a potential multi-year research program. Under the program, the companies would collaborate to focus on the discovery, development and commercialization of new artificial sweet enhancers, natural sweet enhancers and natural high-potency sweeteners for the non-alcoholic beverage category.

The agreement includes commercial and financial terms. Senomyx would receive $7.5 million from PepsiCo. Senomyx uses proprietary technologies to develop novel flavor ingredients for the food, beverage and ingredient supply industries.

Under an agreement announced June 24, International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., New York, will have exclusive rights for five years to develop, manufacture and commercialize RP44, an all-natural, non-caloric sweetness enhancer, in food and beverage products. IFF made the agreement with Redpoint Bio Corp., Ewing, N.J., which identified the sweetness enhancer derived from the stevia plant. RP44 amplifies the existing sugary sweetness in a food or beverage so less sweetener is required.

Redpoint Bio Corp. will receive an upfront payment of $500,000 and also will receive royalties based on the amount of RP44 that IFF buys for use in products. IFF will be responsible for the regulatory process and for costs associated with prosecuting and maintaining Redpoint Bio’s intellectual property covering the sweetness enhancer.

“Reducing the amount of sugar in food and beverage products is a high priority for consumers, our customers and therefore, for IFF,” said Mark Dewis, vice-president of R.&D. – Flavors for IFF. “While we estimate that it will take approximately one year for product commercialization in the U.S. and additional time globally, we believe that Redpoint’s all-natural sweetness enhancer adds a valuable tool to our arsenal of sugar-reduction solutions.”

Ray Salemme, chief executive officer of Redpoint Bio, said, “IFF represents an ideal partner for us, providing outstanding regulatory and product development capabilities. With IFF’s support, we believe we can maximize the value of RP44 as an all-natural sweetness enhancer used to make better tasting and healthier foods and beverages. We are confident in their ability to have it introduced into the market place as quickly, broadly and efficiently as possible.”

High-intensity sweeteners such as stevia and sucralose, while reducing sugar content, may bring about a need for flavor enhancers. Firmenich, for example, has initiated commercial activities for a sucralose enhancer from Senomyx. The enhancer enables up to 50% reduction of sugar in certain foods and beverages while maintaining the taste of natural sugar. Senomyx also offers a new family of sucrose enhancers that allow for up to 40% reduction of sugar in preliminary taste tests.

When used with high-intensity sweeteners, flavor enhancers may bring out sweetness at the beginning of a taste and suppress an unwanted lingering taste on the back end, said Debbie Kennison, vice-president of innovation at Symrise, Inc., which has a U.S. office in Teterboro, N.J.

Ingredient innovations this year have focused on sweetness enhancers in general. Comax Flavors, Melville, N.Y., launched a sweetness enhancer that adds sweetness at half the calories of sugar, according to the company. The sweetness enhancer is free of any color, aroma or aftertaste, and it is available in liquid and dry forms. A combination of several ingredients, the sweetness enhancer stimulates a variety of taste receptor sites simultaneously. It may be used in a variety of food and beverage categories, ranging from dairy to bakery to savory.

Manufacturers of children’s breakfast cereals also are looking to reduce sugar content. They may use SymLife Sweet from Symrise to reduce sugar content by 20% to 25%, Ms. Kennison said. SymLife Sweet is a series of natural, fruit-based offerings that allow formulators to get a sweeter taste without as much sugar.

Enhancers act as allies in sodium reduction

If taste rules in the food industry, then salty flavor enjoys royal status. Unfortunately, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in June took issue with consumer intake of sodium. The committee in its preliminary recommendations said daily sodium intake gradually should reduce to 1,500 mg from 2,300 mg. (U.S. adults consume nearly 3,500 mg per day now). The news may give food formulators more reason to consider flavor enhancers as a way to keep the same salty flavor in products while simultaneously reducing the amount of sodium.

Customers of Symrise, Inc. often request a sodium reduction of 20% to 25% in their products, said Debbie Kennison, vice-president of innovation at Symrise, which has a U.S. office in Teterboro, N.J. Potassium chloride may replace the functional qualities of sodium chloride, but it also may bring a bitter aftertaste. Masking agents may work together with flavor enhancers to solve the bitter aftertaste problem, she said.

Molecules that taste like salt also may be used as well as molecules that make taste receptors in the mouth more sensitive to available sodium, Ms. Kennison said. Smaller particles may work to reduce sodium by up to 60% in snacks if the particles are distributed topically on the product.

Such topical applications may work in breakfast cereal, which may contain as much as 500 mg of sodium per serving, Ms. Kennison said.

“It can be difficult because of the high temperatures associated with extruded products,” Ms. Kennison said. “The molecules don’t survive.”

Salt enhancers and blends from Comax Flavors, Melville, N.Y., may be used alongside common salt substitutes such as potassium chloride or potassium lactate, said Agneta Weisz, vice-president of flavors and technologies.

“They can mask the bitter taste associated with potassium and enhance the saltiness inherent in the food product itself,” she said. “They also have the power to enhance the umami taste of food, and they do all this without adding additional unwanted tastes. In keeping with the concept of a healthier alternative, Comax Flavors salt enhancers do not contain sodium glutamate.”

Formulators may not want to use monosodium glutamate (MSG) in a product with umami flavor, Ms. Kennison said. Instead, the attributes of Parmesan cheese and mushrooms may give a product an umami flavor, she said.

Kikkoman Sales USA, Inc., San Francisco, offers a natural flavor enhancer for umami flavor that is free of MSG and allows formulators to reduce sodium 30% to 50%. Nikken Foods Co., Ltd., St. Louis, offers a natural flavor enhancer that replaces MSG.

I.F.T. booths to feature flavor boosters

Several exhibitors will promote their respective flavor enhancers July 18-20 in Chicago at I.F.T. 10, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition.

Hormel Specialty Products, Austin, Minn., this year introduced dried Savory Booster products designed for use in soups, sauces and gravies. The products are called Turkey Booster (No. 20901), Chicken Booster (No. 20908), Pork Booster (No. 20919) and Beef Booster (No.20911) and are available in dried form and 50-lb boxes.

The idea for the Savory Booster line came when customers of Hormel said they were looking for specific flavor boosters, not general ones, said Melanie Brechka, national sales manager. The company then developed savory notes for each specific species: turkey, chicken, pork and beef.

Ms. Brechka added when companies wanted a chicken note, it did not mean they wanted a buttery note or a salty note. The Savory Boosters, in response, focus just on the meaty flavor.

Biorigin Ingredients, Sao Paulo, Brazil, will present its natural ingredient solutions that reduce salt in final products. The company’s Bionis yeast extract line gives body, mouthfeel and natural umami enhancement. Produced from a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Bionis yeast extracts naturally enhance the original flavors of a variety of food products, providing more body to soups, broths, condiments, sauces, snacks and meats.

Nu-Tek Products, Minnetonka, Minn., will promote its patent-pending reduced sodium technology at I.F.T. 10. The process modifies potassium chloride’s crystal structure to enhance the flavor and functionality of potassium chloride and make it taste and function like sodium chloride.

Wixon, Inc., St. Francis, Wis., will use its Sweet Lift and KCLean Salt technologies to help reduce sugar content by 34% and sodium content by 38% in potato chips with a barbecue baby back ribs flavor. Sweet Lift also will be used in the creation of french toast corn puffs with 43% sugar reduction and in the creation of sweet potato pie chips with a 51% sugar reduction.

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