KANSAS CITY — The roster of sweeteners available to food and beverage formulators should expand before long with brazzein and tagatose expected to become commercially available this year. Production of the two sweeteners will ramp up, and they will join allulose, stevia and erythritol as tools to help with sugar reduction.
Sweegen, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., expects to offer the zero-calorie, high-intensity sweetener brazzein early this year. Brazzein, a small, heat-stable protein, is 500 to 2,000 times sweeter than sugar and has little to no bitter aftertaste, according to Sweegen. Brazzein is stable in a wide range of pH, and it may be used in applications designed to fit consumer diets such as keto, low-glycemic and low-carbohydrates, according to Sweegen. Brazzein derives from oubli, the fruit of a West African climbing plant.
“The percentage of sugar reduction that may be achieved by brazzein in grain-based foods will differ by the product type,” said Casey McCormick, director of product innovation at Sweegen. “Because it is a high-intensity sweetener, product developers utilizing brazzein will still have the challenge of rebalancing the rest of the product to account for the bulk coming from the reduced sugar.”
Since brazzein, like other high-intensity sweeteners, is used at a low level compared to nutritive sweeteners it replaced, brazzein will require a building block approach in grain-based foods, he added.
Sweegen collaborated with Conagen, a biosynthesis and biomanufacturing company based in Bedford, Mass., that will scale the sweetener to commercial production. Conagen scales brazzein sustainably by producing it through a proprietary precision fermentation process.
Bonumose, Inc., Charlottesville, Va., plans to open a commercial production facility for the low-glycemic “rare sugar” tagatose this spring. The sweetener may be used to reduce sugar in applications such as confectionery items, ready-to-eat cereal, cookies, bars, ice cream, yogurt, beverages and meal replacement drinks, said Ed Rogers, chief executive officer of Bonumose. Tagatose is 92% as sweet as sugar and has no aftertaste.
“Rare sugars” are so named because they are found in nature in small quantities. Tagatose is found in small quantities in some fruits and grains as well as in the cocoa tree. Bonumose lowers the cost of producing tagatose by using non-dairy, plant-based starch, enzymes and a streamlined process that eliminates several steps that elevate the cost of tagatose and allulose, another “rare sugar.”
Bonumose plans to launch tagatose in 2022. ASR Group, West Palm Beach, Fla., will be Bonumose’s exclusive distribution partner in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Western Europe.
Another new sweetener comes from food technology startup B.T. Sweet, Ltd., Tel Aviv, Israel, which in December unveiled Cambya, a plant-based, one-to-one, drop-in sugar replacer for multiple applications. The proprietary formula features soluble fibers, monk fruit and botanicals to match the body and taste of sugar without the need for masking agents, according to the company.
B.T. Sweet already has made cookies and confectionery items with Cambya, said Yoav Goen, chief executive officer. The amount of sugar reduction depends on the customer, he said.
“We can adjust the amount of Cambya used according to their personal recipe and needs leading to anywhere between 1% to 100% reduction of white sugar,” Mr. Goen said.
Dagi Pekatch, chairman, founded B.T. Sweet in 2019 after showing early signs of developing type 2 diabetes. He approached colleagues Gilles Gamon, who was active in sugar reduction, and food technology experts Yoel Benesh, Gil de-Picciotto and Gitay Gryger, PhD. The company has raised seed venture funding and operates a production plant in Europe. Cambya is available for business-to-business confectionery, baking and ice cream client trials, Mr. Goen said.
“We are manufacturing in Europe and can deliver globally,” he said. “B-to-C is indeed a future opportunity.”
Consumer perception research
Cargill, Minneapolis, plans to have commercial-scale quantities available of SimPure RF 92260, a soluble rice flour that serves as a label-friendly ingredient for reduced sugar applications, according to the company. The rice flour acts as a one-to-one replacement for 10 DE maltodextrin in a variety of applications as it has similar viscosity, sensory and bulking performance to maltodextrin.
“Our annual, proprietary IngredienTracker research monitors consumer perceptions of hundreds of ingredients, including maltodextrin,” said Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs manager at Cargill. “In our most recent round of research, fielded in 2020, we found nearly a third of consumers surveyed indicated they were less likely to purchase a product containing the ingredient.”
The IngredienTracker research also explored consumer perceptions of soluble rice flour.
“We found consumers perceived soluble rice flour as a healthy addition to food and beverage products,” Ms. Stauffer said. “Equally important, it may be declared on ingredient statements as soluble rice flour, an easy-to-understand name, which our research confirms is viewed positively by consumers.”
SimPure soluble rice flour has been shown to replace maltodextrins in a range of reduced sugar grain-based foods, including ready-to-eat cereal, snack bars and baked foods, said Shiva Elayedath, technical service manager for Cargill’s texturizing products.
“In RTE cereals, for example, when you reduce sugar and replace it with high-intensity sweeteners, you need to add a bulking agent to build sugar’s missing bulk back into the product,” he said. “Formulators often use maltodextrin to fill that role. SimPure soluble rice flour gives them a new, label-friendly option.”
The level of sugar reduction depends more on the specific finished product and the sweetening systems used than SimPure, he added.
Partners for allulose
Allulose received a favorable US Food and Drug Administration ruling in 2019. The agency said this “rare sugar” no longer counted as sugar or added sugar on the Nutrition Facts Label of products because it is metabolized by the body in a different way than table sugar.
Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., offers allulose under the Astraea brand. In 2020, the company expanded its presence in the stevia category as well, when it acquired a 75% stake in Pure Circle, Inc. in 2020.
“Allulose and stevia have great synergy potential for achieving sugar reduction in many applications,” said Christina Coles, senior associate marketing manager, sugar reduction and specialty sweeteners for Ingredion. “When removing or reducing sugar, it’s important to not only consider building back sweetness (for which stevia is a great tool), but also the functionality that sugar provides such as bulking and browning. Allulose provides bulking properties and is also a ‘reducing sugar,’ which means that it will help contribute to Maillard browning. Together, allulose and stevia can address both elements of functionality and sweetness, particularly in bakery products.”
Ingredion’s technical teams, through the combination of stevia and allulose, have achieved sugar reductions of up to 55% in cookies, 60% in granola bars and 40% in cakes.
Ingredion belongs to the Allulose Novel Food Consortium along with Cosun Beet Co., Matsutani Chemical Industry Co. Ltd. and Samyang Corp. The consortium seeks approval for the use of allulose in the European Union and in the United Kingdom. A single, joint, proprietary novel food application could accelerate the approval process, according to the consortium.
ADM, Chicago, offers sugar-reduction ingredients under its SweetRight brand, including allulose, erythritol, stevia and reduced sugar glycose syrup.
“As a rare sugar, our allulose has virtually the same functionality as sugar,” said Sarah Diedrich, marketing director, global sweetening and texturizing for ADM. “It’s especially great for aiding in the functionality of baking, cereal and snack applications as it provides browning and humectancy. Our allulose can also help support clean label targets, as it doesn’t contain sugar alcohols.
“Plus, SweetRight erythritol provides the bulking and humectancy characteristics needed for baked goods while also maintaining stability and shelf life. Our erythritol has 70% of sugar’s sweetness, a low-glycemic index and no calories, making it an appealing option for varying consumer needs.”
SweetRight reduced-sugar glucose syrup replaces traditional corn syrup in grain-based applications without sacrificing functionality, she added. It aids in bulking and binding by delivering viscosity comparable to traditional corn syrups in applications like crunchy crackers and chewy bars.
Combining it with SweetRight Edge stevia may bring sugar reduction of more than 30%, while producing grain-based options with the flavor, mouthfeel and right amount of sweetness, she said.
ADM’s Outside Voice found the top attributes consumers said they consider when choosing a new food or beverage are “less sugar” and “appealing taste.”
“In the US, 8 out of 10 consumers are trying to reduce sugar in their diets,” Ms. Diedrich said in reference to Outside Voice research. “Of those people, 83% find sugar reduction is even more important in beverages, 79% in bars and snacks, 75% in sauces and dressings, 70% in baked goods, 69% in dairy products and 54% in candies and chocolates.”