Food and beverage product developers are in a bind as they consider sweetener options. Perception of sugar by some consumers has shifted in a negative direction as the sweetener has been associated with obesity and many of the chronic conditions associated with obesity. The trend may be seen as an opportunity for the manufacturers of high-intensity sweeteners, but that category is facing perception problems as well.

A study published in the journal Stroke in late April associated artificial sweetener consumption with the occurrence of strokes and dementia. The study, conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine and using data gathered through the Framingham Heart Study, found that consumers who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not consume diet soda.

Such groups as the International Food Information Council Foundation quickly responded to the research findings by noting it is based on observational findings and is not conclusive.

“Observational studies using F.F.Q.s (food frequency questionnaires) can be important first steps in building the greater body of scientific understanding, but they are just that — first steps,” IFIC said. “These types of studies cannot establish cause and effect; rather they can help inform experimental studies, such as randomized control trials — the gold standard of research design. Having both observational and experimental data leads to scientific advancements in nutrition and food science.”

Tate & Lyle patents new blend

Ingredient manufacturers have noted the shift in consumer perceptions toward some sweeteners and are working to develop new options or minimize the negative attributes associated with others. This past March, for example, Tate & Lyle P.L.C., London, added to its Dolcia Prima allulose line with a new crystalline format that allows its use in such applications as dry beverages, meal replacement mixes, fat-based creams and chocolate used in the manufacture of confectionery products.

Tate & Lyle was recently granted a patent for a new sweetener that is a blend of allulose, fructose and sucralose. The company said the ingredient is suitable as a replacement for high calorie sugars.

“The present invention is based on the surprising finding that allulose, fructose and sucralose exhibit sweetness synergy, whereby the blend is sweeter than the expected sweetness based on the sweetness of its components,” according to the patent. “That is to say, the relative sweetness of the sweetener composition is greater than the sweetness calculated from the individual components of the composition.

“Furthermore, it has been found that this blend of allulose, fructose and sucralose addresses problems associated with the individual components, in particular, with regard to off-flavor and/or undesirable temporal profile. In addition, due to the presence of the zero calorie sweeteners, allulose and sucralose, the sweetener composition is low calorie.”

The Tate & Lyle application said that as a consequence of the sweetness synergy, the amount of the ingredient required to provide a given level of sweetness is less than would be expected in the absence of synergy.

Senomyx seeks siratose partners

This past March, Senomyx, Inc., San Diego, said it had entered the development phase for a new sweetener the company is calling siratose. The zero-calorie, high-intensity sweetener is extracted from luo han guo, also known as monk fruit, and the company is seeking partners to further develop the ingredient.

Siratose comprises less than 1% of luo han guo and could not have been discovered using traditional human taste testing, said John Poyhonen, president and chief executive officer of Senomyx, which uses proprietary taste science technologies to discover, develop and commercialize novel flavor ingredients and natural, zero-calorie sweeteners.

“(Siratose) is not the brand name, but the name you would see on an ingredient list within the nutrition facts information panel on a packaged food or beverage product,” Mr. Poyhonen said. “The discovery of this minor component was facilitated by our proprietary taste science technologies.”

In sensory evaluations, siratose showed greater potency and a better taste profile than Rebaudioside A, which is extracted from the stevia plant, he said. Siratose is stable in low pH products like carbonated beverages and also soluble, he said, adding siratose has shown greater potency and overall taste quality to existing sweeteners based on luo han guo.

“During the past year, we developed a comprehensive intellectual property strategy, initiated preliminary safety studies and gained confidence on our ability to partner to develop a cost-effective fermentation scale-up process,” he said. “Working with fermentation process experts, our goal is to achieve a proof of concept of the fermentation strain development by the first half of 2018. Assuming that we are able to achieve this goal, the next step is to optimize the strain development process and submit our GRAS notification by the end of 2019, keeping in mind the feasibility and timeline of these development activities is inherently uncertain.”

He said Senomyx is pursuing new non-exclusive collaborative relationships for the company’s natural sweet taste program, which will seek to maximize the sweetener’s commercial potential and provide collaborators with access to siratose.

Further purity refinement

A challenge food and beverage product developers face when selecting a high intensity sweetener is the negative attributes that may affect the final product. To address these issues, Steviva Ingredients, Portland, Ore., has implemented a technology the company said further purifies the ingredients and removes some of the negative attributes that may be associated with the sweeteners. The company is using a process it is calling PuRefine that uses resins from polymers that attach to unwanted compounds in a monk fruit solution that is passed through them and results in the removal of all aftertaste and off notes, according to the company.

“While resins column technology has been used for decades, such as in the manufacturing of fruit juices to remove bitter-tasting components, this process is the first of its kind, poised to revolutionize the natural sweetener market,” said Thom King, president and chief executive officer of Steviva Ingredients. “PuRefine represents a sea change to the natural sweetener category; these new, exceptionally clean-flavored sweeteners open the door to a new wave of clean label, reduced-sugar foods.”

Steviva is using the PuRefine process with its MonkSweet monk fruit extract, which is a stevia, monk fruit blend, and MonkSweet+, which is a blend of stevia, monk fruit and erythritol. The company plans to begin using the process on its line of SteviaSweet products and expects to have those ingredients available during the fourth quarter of 2017.