Sweeteners surge

by Jeff Gelski
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While stevia-based sweeteners have gained a foothold in more areas around the globe, sucralose sweeteners still have a place — and it’s expanding — in the food and beverage world. The market apparently has room for both high-intensity sweeteners, which may be used to reduce sugar and caloric content in products.

While products with stevia-based sweeteners may be promoted for being natural, PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y., turned to sucralose for a 2012 beverage introduction. Besides sucralose, Pepsi Next contains other sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K).

“Pepsi Next is crafted from the right mix of cola flavor and a blend of sweeteners to closely mimic the taste curve of a regular cola,” PepsiCo said. “By unlocking the real cola taste consumers expect from Pepsi, with 60% less sugar, Pepsi Next is an unmatched proposition in the marketplace and what cola lovers have been waiting for.”

Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo, spoke about the new beverage in an April 26 earnings conference call.

“Pepsi Next, which offers a great cola taste with 60% less sugar, is off to a good start,” she said. “And, initial feedback is that the brand is sourcing volume from other categories, consistent with our objective of bringing back lapsed cola users.”

For another sucralose success story, London-based Tate & Lyle, P.L.C., a world leader in sucralose production, is expanding capacity. The company on April 10 announced plans to re-open its McIntosh, Ala., Splenda sucralose production facility. The facility was mothballed in 2009 because of high manufacturing yields at another Tate & Lyle sucralose facility in Singapore.

“Demand for Splenda sucralose continues to be driven by three major factors: the underlying global consumer trend for healthier products particularly to help address rising levels of diabetes and obesity in both the developed and developing markets, customers using Splenda sucralose to optimize taste and manufacturing costs in the face of high and volatile commodity prices, and the technical expertise and high quality of our product due to our 30 years of experience working with sucralose,” said Olivier Rigaud, president of Specialty Food Ingredients for Tate & Lyle.

Javen Ahmed, c.e.o. of Tate & Lyle, recognized growing competition within the sucralose market in a Feb. 9 conference call.

“It remains competitive,” he said. “We see our competitors, the generics, mostly from China, and we’re coming up against them all over the place.”

Stevia-based sweeteners began showing up in Europe this year. In November 2011, steviol glycosides from the stevia plant were approved for use as non-caloric sweeteners in the European Union.

Jungbunzlauer, based in Switzerland, began offering its Erylite Stevia in Europe as well as the United States. The ingredient blends the polyol Erylite (erythritol) and Rebaudioside A, a stevia plant extract.

“Erylite Stevia combines the unique benefits of these two sweeteners that fit well together, attributable to their natural characteristics,” Jungbunzlauer said. “The result is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener with the excellent taste of complete sugar sweetness and full bulk sweetener functionalities.”

Belgian company Cavalier and Barry Callebaut, Zurich, Switzerland, jointly developed a semisweet chocolate with stevia extracts. The chocolate was used in an assortment of products, including pralines and chocolate bars, that won the new products showcase at the 2012 International Sweets and Biscuits Fair in Cologne, Germany, in January.

Stevia innovation has taken place in the United States as well. Wisdom Natural Brands, Gilbert, Ariz., in April introduced three new flavors to its SweetLeaf liquid stevia product line. They are coconut, watermelon and cola. Besides being available for retail purchase, they may be used by food and beverage companies for use in such applications as sports drinks, ice cream and candy. Other flavors in the line include lemon drop, Valencia orange, berry chocolate raspberry, English toffee, vanilla crème, hazelnut, peppermint, root beer, grape, apricot nectar, chocolate, cinnamon and SteviaClear.

While products with stevia sweeteners are sold in the United States, most of the stevia plants are grown internationally, including in the continents of Asia, South America and Africa.

Sweet Green Fields, Bellingham, Wash., a glo-bal producer of stevia extracts, has invested in American acreage. The company last year had a commercial stevia harvest in California. This year Sweet Green Fields said it was expanding its stevia crop production through plantings in Georgia and North Carolina.
“We are investing heavily in our American-grown crops and linking our advanced agriculture practices with our industry leading plant research in order to create stevia products that are competitive on a global level while being grown right in our own backyard,” said Hal Teegarden, vice-president of agricultural operations for Sweet Green Fields.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are supporting the stevia crop plantings.

“With the ideal soil and climate conditions in Georgia, Sweet Green Fields has seen the potential for stevia to prosper as a new crop in the rotational system,” said Gary W. Black, Georgia agriculture commissioner. “We welcome their expansion here and look forward to working with them throughout the seasons to come.”

Whether using sucralose or stevia extracts as sweeteners, food and beverage formulators need to keep aftertaste in mind. They have allies in flavor-masking ingredients.

“Sucralose has a longer peak of intense sweetness compared to sugar, and as well, some lingering,” said Janine van Kampen, global product manager of Taste Sweet for Givaudan Flavours, Vernier, Switzerland. “Givaudan works with customers to reduce this lingering and create a more upfront sweetness perception.

“Compared to sucralose, stevia-based products suffer from stronger lingering sweetness in addition to some characteristic bitter and licorice-like notes. This requires much stronger focus on masking the undesirable notes.”

Flavor-masking strategies may vary by geographic location. Givaudan has developed methodologies that combine genetic sensitivity with consumer habits, attitudes and use to define and understand consumers, their sensitivities and pre-ferences, said Amanda Warnock, global sensory manager for the company.
“Employment of these methodologies helps us to understand potential genetic sensitivity to off-notes or lingering and the probability of what may be considered an off-note to one demographic being a common or familiar profile to another demographic,” she said. “For example, the licorice note associated with some stevia-based sweeteners is quite common and recognized in Europe whereas it is unfamiliar and considered an off-note in the U.S.

“By understanding both the profiles of each sweetener, as well as sensitivities and their causes, we are able to develop well-targeted solutions that will be enjoyed in their market.” 

Polyols may assist in keeping smiles sweet

Eating candy, chewing gum and drinking sweetened beverages may not be thought of as positive ways to maintain dental health, but evidence exists that two kinds of polyol sweeteners may offer dental benefits.
A three-year clinical trial funded by Cargill’s Research & Development Centre in Europe and conducted by researchers at the University of Tartu in Russia found Cargill’s Zerose erythritol was effective at preventing dental caries and reducing plaque formation.

The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study involved 485 first-grade and second-grade students. Teachers distributed and supervised the use of candies three times a day at school. The study found Zerose erythritol may be more effective at preventing dental caries and reducing plaque formation than xylitol and sorbitol, two other polyols used in the study.

A European Food Safety Authority claim already exists for xylitol. It states, “Xylitol chewing gum reduces the risk of caries in children.”

A study published in the May/June issue of General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, claimed an increase in the consumption of sports and energy drinks, especially among adolescents, is causing irreversible damage to teeth (see story on Page 23). The study said the high acidity levels in the drinks erode tooth enamel.

Xylitol may be used in sports or energy beverages to reduce sugar and calories, said Cathy Dorko, product manager, active nutrition for DuPont Nutrition & Health in New Century, Kas.

“As far as deriving a dental benefit from xylitol in one of those beverages, it would have to be shown that there is adequate contact with the teeth (gum and toothpaste have more prolonged contact), and there are no studies for beverages that I am aware of,” she said.
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