Natural sweeteners at I.F.T.16
Suppliers invest in stevia production, innovation.

CHICAGO — Alternative sweeteners are doing more than just reducing sugar and calories in formulations. Presentations and booth exhibits at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago July 16-19 showed how natural sweeteners are answering the call for “clean label” formulations. Stevia innovation in particular was prominent at several booths.

A presentation from Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., was titled “‘Clean label’ and Non-GM Sweeteners: Ingredient Solutions for a Changing Market.” Ingredion cited March 2015 information from the Natural Marketing Institute, Harleysville, Pa., that showed 58% of consumers agreed that it’s important for their stores to carry products that do not include genetically modified ingredients.

Consumers do not think honey, fruit sweeteners, agave, evaporated cane juice/syrup, monk fruit or stevia could be genetically modified, according to the Ingredion presentation given by Adams M. Berzins, sweetener solutions technical service project leader and based in Bridgewater, N.J.

A 2015 consumer study from Ingredion and the Natural Marketing Institute asked people what sweeteners they considered as natural. Honey led the way with 89% saying they considered it natural. Raw sugar (76%), molasses (73%) and beet sugar (72%) all came in above 70%. Other notable results were agave at 65%, monk fruit at 55% and stevia at 36%.

More stevia growing regions

Stevia’s use in the baking industry has increased in the past five years, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) information supplied by PureCircle. There were 24 global new bakery product launches that contained stevia in 2011. The number of such launches then increased to 25 in 2012, 80 in 2013, 134 in 2014 and 186 in 2015.

To expand its stevia sweetener supply, PureCircle will invest an additional $100 million in its PureCircle Agronomy Program. The investment will focus on expanding to more than 15 growing regions in Asia, Africa and South America and to further develop the company’s farming footprint outside of China, which PureCircle said will result in a 24,000-acre pipeline to provide customers with year-round access to PureCircle stevia leaf extract.

“This investment highlights our commitment to providing our customers with the largest natural supply of stevia leaf extract,” said Jordi Ferre, chief operating officer of PureCircle, which has a U.S. office in Oak Brook, Ill. “We are diversifying the countries we grow in to meet the needs of the food and beverage industry as the demand for naturally grown stevia continues to rise.”

PureCircle said the investment will focus on three areas: scaling naturally, research and development, and farmers. Research will include a focus on developing stevia plants with a higher concentration of sweeter steviol glycosides such as Rebaudioside D and Rebaudioside M.

Natural sweeteners at I.F.T.16
Crystalline fructose may help formulators reach a desired sweetness level with fewer total sugars and calories in such items as cookies.

Steviva Ingredients, Portland, Ore., promoted its Erysweet+ Ultra blend at the I.F.T. event. The super-fine mesh powder consists of SteviaSweet 95-60 with Erysweet non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. erythritol. Steviva Ingredients sources the erythritol from non-bioengineered corn grown in France, said Thom King, president and chief executive officer of Steviva Ingredients.

Erysweet+ Ultra has heat tolerance past 250 degrees Fahrenheit and folds into any hot or cold process, according to the company. Potential applications include chocolate, coatings, fillings, glazes, fondants and icings.

“This is a game-changer for confectioners and baking manufacturers trying to achieve clean label sugar reduction,” Mr. King said. “Never before has there been an all-natural, non-sugar solution that cannot only withstand the tempering process of chocolate but also produce the same light mouthfeel and brilliant flavor profile as confectioners’ sugar.”

A need for bulking agents

Various bulking agents work well with an Enliten stevia sweetener, said Ricardo Rodriquez, marketing manager, confectionery and bakery for Ingredion, based in Bridgewater. He listed glucose syrups, high maltose syrups, maltitol syrups, crystalline maltitol, sorbitol syrups, crystalline sorbitol, fructose and fructose syrups.

Mr. Berzins spoke about bulking agents in relation to clean label.

“Overall, erythritol is the closest thing to clean label with functionality, but its glass transition temp is much lower than sugar and will impact the structure and moisture release during baking,” he said.

Polyols overall are the best solution, he said, with maltitol being the best answer for baked foods except for the clean label issue. Ingredion also offers Nutraflora prebiotic fiber as another option for use in reduced sugar applications.

Tate & Lyle, P.L.C., London, at the I.F.T. event promoted such branded sweeteners as Tasteva stevia, Dolcia Prima allulose, Purefruit monk fruit extract and Krystar crystalline fructose.

Krystar crystalline fructose may help formulators reach a desired sweetness level with fewer total sugars and calories, according to Tate & Lyle. It may help balance the sweetness profile and mask the aftertaste of some natural-origin and high-potency sweeteners. Additionally, it offers a fast sweetness onset and a clean finish, which may provide a boost to fruit, chocolate, caramel and cinnamon flavor notes.

Cargill, Minneapolis, sampled a sugar cookie with 25% sugar reduction due to the incorporation of stevia and chicory root fiber, a bulking agent. A 35-gram serving had 9 grams of sugar, which compared with 12 grams in the full sugar version.