Sweeteners come with benefits but supply issues as well. Research and development is taking on the supply problems, making the sweeteners — allulose along with certain steviol glycosides — more likely to be used on a commercial scale.
Allulose is 70% as sweet as sucrose while having 0.2 calories per gram, but, known as a “rare sugar,” it’s not found in large quantities in nature. Enzyme technology is increasing supply of allulose, improving its cost-effectiveness as a bulk sweetener.
Fermentation processes are increasing the levels of sweeter-tasting steviol glycosides, including Rebaudioside D and Rebaudioside M, in stevia leaves and baker’s yeast, which may drive down the price of the high-intensity sweeteners.
Allulose, also scientifically referred to as “D-psicose,” is a monosaccharide and a rare sugar, one of about 50 that exist in nature, according to Matsutani Chemical Industry Co. Ltd., based in Japan.
The definition of “rare sugar” may vary.
“Obviously it’s something that is not one of the major sugars found in nature, and it’s a matter of opinion where you draw the line between what is and what isn’t a rare sugar,” said John C. Fry, Ph.D., owner of Connect Consulting, which is based in Horsham, United Kingdom, and provides consulting services for low-calorie and no-calorie sweeteners.
He sees promise for allulose.
“It’s very low calorie,” Dr. Fry said. “Not all the rare sugars are. Potentially, it’s a very interesting alternative sweetener.”
Matsutani now offers allulose on a commercial scale. The company, in partnership with Kagawa University in Japan, developed Astraea brand allulose through the enzymatic isomerization of fructose via proprietary enzyme technology.
“Astraea browns wonderfully in bakery applications and doesn’t affect any of the cultures in dairy products,” said Koji Sasaki, manager of snacks and baked goods R.&D. for Matsutani Chemical Industry Co. Ltd. “Manufacturing companies can formulate with Astraea to create low-calorie products for all bakery food segments without the drawbacks of long-lasting aftertaste and synthetic or chemical perception.”
Astraea may be used as a binder for nutrition bars and coatings for cereal.
“Its replacement rate (for sucrose) can be as high as 100%, but its influence of browning must be well-coordinated during development,” he said.
London-based Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. also offers an allulose sweetener under the Dolcia Prima brand names.
“Allulose works very well in baked goods applications such as rolls, cakes, pies, pastries, cookies and frostings because it tastes and functions very similar to sugar,” said Sarah Scholl, Ph.D., food scientist and bakery team leader for Tate & Lyle and based in Hoffman Estates, Ill. “It provides the same structure and texture of sucrose, as well as some improvements in the shelf life or humectancy over time.
“For example, sensory data shows that after three months of storage at room temperature, bars made with allulose had much better texture acceptability compared to a bar made with caloric sugars. Allulose also works very well in achieving a caramel flavor or other warm notes, like that found in cookies and cakes.”
Another version of the ingredient, Dolcia Prima crystalline allulose, has the same benefits as Dolcia Prima allulose syrup and opens up new categories and applications such as tabletop sweeteners, dry beverage and meal replacement mixes, fat-based creams, and chocolate confectionery, she said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014 said it had “no questions” about the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of allulose. Now allulose suppliers are promoting the sweetener to the food industry.
The awareness level of allulose is increasing globally through conferences and seminars, and more companies are checking out the sweetener, Mr. Sasaki said.
Tate & Lyle since 2014 has communicated with hundreds of health professionals and given them ways to educate their patients and clients about allulose, Dr. Scholl said.
“We are working closely with our customers and health professionals to assist them in proactively educating consumers on reading labels that include allulose,” she said. “We are encouraging our customers to proactively add information to their labels, showing that allulose has negligible calories and does not raise blood glucose.”
Under current U.S. regulations, the use of allulose may lead to claims about sucrose or calorie reduction but not sugar reduction, Mr. Sasaki said. Astraea allulose is considered an added sugar even though it provides 0.2 calories per gram compared to sucrose at 4 calories per gram.
“Many countries’ authorities are in discussion with academia and food industries to improve labeling,” he said.
Masaaki Tokuda, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at Kagawa University, led the development of Astraea allulose. Dr. Tokuda and Matsutani Chemical Industry Co. are working with other rare sugars, but developments may take a few years, Mr. Sasaki said.
“However, we are always looking for and welcome any potential customers who are willing to collaborate,” Mr. Sasaki said.
|||READ MORE: Working in tandem|||
Working in tandem
Allulose, a bulk sweetener, may work in tandem with high-intensity sweeteners, including steviol glycosides, Dr. Fry said.
“It’s a bulk sweetener in the sense that you need a lot of it to produce the sweet effects,” he said of allulose. “That’s one of the things that I think people generally don’t realize is that sugar — ordinary table sugar — is actually not a very good sweetener. It’s not very good in the sense that you need quite a lot of it to get the (desired) sweet taste, and that’s part of the problem in the modern world, is that ‘quite a lot of it’ carries with it more energy (calories).”
Allulose alone may replace regular sucrose by 50% in applications, which would reduce the sweetness level by 15% in the application, he said.
“To a lot of people that is undetectable,” Dr. Fry said.
Going above 50% replacement could have a more noticeable effect on the sweetness level.
Enter high-intensity sweeteners, which in applications needing a bulk sweetener, like baked foods, could benefit from allulose.
“High-potency sweeteners, such as stevia and monk fruit extract, enable manufacturers to significantly reduce sugar in formulations without compromising taste,” Dr. Scholl said. “However, because these sweetening ingredients are used in such small quantities in the final product, they do not result in functional attributes like bulk or mouthfeel.”
Allulose may provide such bulk or mouthfeel.
“Dolcia Prima allulose has a strong sweetness synergy with sucralose (another high-intensity sweetener) and stevia and can be used to reduce calories, build back body and mouthfeel, and deliver an even better temporal profile in sweetened baked goods.” Dr. Scholl said.
Steviol glycosides from stevia leaves increasingly are used in foods and beverages. The Freedonia Group, a division of MarketResearch.com and based in Cleveland, expects U.S. demand for stevia to reach $120 million in 2021 after yearly gains of 11%.
Food accounted for $42 million of demand, or 60% of overall demand, for stevia in 2016, according to The Freedonia Report “Natural Alternative Sweetener Market in the U.S.” Beverage accounted for 37%. U.S. demand for stevia in food is expected to expand at about 10% yearly to reach $68 million in 2021.
“I think both stevia and monk fruit are likely to have versions that are derived from fermentation as we discover more about these particular natural materials,” Dr. Fry said. “You can’t grow enough (stevia) leaf or enough monk fruit to extract these good-tasting molecules because they are there at such a low concentration.”
SweeGen, Inc., Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., uses a fermentation process to develop its stevia-based sweeteners. The process ensures sustained availability and a commercially feasible pricing structure for use in foods and beverages, according to the company.
Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., last December reported it would become an exclusive distributor of SweeGen’s stevia-based sweeteners in all markets except China, where Ingredion would be a non-exclusive distributor.
“SweeGen’s nature-based products, made from stevia leaf extract, represent the next generation of stevia sweeteners,” said Anthony DeLio, Ingredion’s chief innovation officer, when the deal was announced.
Reb M and Reb D are two of the sweeter-tasting molecules in the stevia leaf. Evolva, Reinach, Switzerland, seeks ways to solve supply chain issues of natural ingredients through a mix of biotechnology and brewing. The company developed a way to create Reb M and Reb D through the fermentation of baker’s yeast.
“There is considerable demand to bring natural ingredients to the market for health, wellness and nutrition and related fields,” said Simon Waddington, chief executive officer. “However, many are limited by supply chain issues. Our mission remains to solve such issues by delivering cost-competitive products produced in a sustainable way through bio-production.”
Minneapolis-based Cargill, through its collaboration with Evolva, in 2018 plans to launch EverSweet, a new high-intensity sweetener. Reb M and Reb D make up over 95% of EverSweet, said Mandy Kennedy, senior marketing manager for Cargill. The F.D.A. issued a “no questions” letter on the GRAS status of EverSweet in 2016. The level of use of EverSweet in grain-based foods will depend on the product formula, Ms. Kennedy said.
EverSweet comes from a natural source, but deciding whether EverSweet is a bioengineered/G.M.O. ingredient depends upon the definition, she said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture may define G.M.O. ingredients when it issues a final G.M.O. labeling rule, scheduled to come in July 2018.
“The sweet parts produced by the yeast — Reb M and Reb D — are identical to the Reb M and Reb D found in a stevia leaf,” Ms. Kennedy said. “The baker’s yeast used to produce EverSweet is genetically modified. However, after the yeast produces Reb M and D, the yeast is completely filtered out, leaving only the great-tasting, zero-calorie sweetener.”
Senomyx, Inc., San Diego, is working on ways to make monk fruit extracts less expensive. A novel sweetener from the company has entered the development phase.
“This novel sweetener is a miniscule component of luo han guo, which is the fruit of the Siraitia grosvenorii plant,” said John Poyhonen, president and chief executive officer, in March when giving Senomyx financial results for the 2016 fiscal year.
The new sweetener will have the common or usual name of siratose, which is not the brand name but the name that would appear on the ingredient list of a packaged food or beverage product.
“The discovery of this minor component was facilitated by our proprietary taste science technologies,” Mr. Poyhonen said. “Siratose comprises less than 1% of luo han guo and could not have been discovered using traditional human taste testing.”
Senomyx hopes to submit a GRAS notice for siratose by the end of 2019.
“Pursuing new non-exclusive collaborative relationships for our natural sweet taste program that maximize the commercial potential and provide our collaborators with access to siratose and future natural product discoveries remains a top priority for the company,” Mr. Poyhonen said.
As discovery, supply and regulatory approvals of new sweeteners increase, so does the emphasis on sugar reduction, both from consumers and the food industry.
“That’s not going to go away,” Dr. Fry said. “I think you have to be a little more cautious than some people are in the condemnation of sugar. There is a tendency for people to regard sugar as the sole evil cause of obesity and diabetes, and that is clearly not the case. It’s got more to do with people consuming more energy than they need, and they tend to eat energy-dense foods. Sugar is one component of that particular problem, but it’s not the sole cause.
“That said, pressure to reduce sugar content is not going to go away.”