Beverage World recently conducted Q&A sessions with several sweetener experts across the industry to gain some insight on the big sweetener trends to look out for in 2013. Here's what we found out.
Beverage makers increasingly are turning to sweetener blends, such as sucralose and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) and stevia and sugar, to achieve the right sweetness profile in their drinks. Do you think the trend of sweetener blends will continue?
Mary Lynne Shafer, senior manager, business development, Beverage with Ingredion Incoporated: Absolutely, sweetener blends will increasingly be formulated into beverages to provide the ideal sweetness profile. This is particularly important when replacing sucrose as consumers will expect reduced calorie versions or reformulated beverages to meet their sweetness, flavor, taste and texture expectations.
Brendan Naulty, president, Ajinomoto Food Ingredients, makers of aspartame: The beverage industry has signed on to front pack labeling, so calories are front and center to the consumer. So if you can replace some of the sugar with another sweetener and get the calories down from 180 to 100 or even under a 100, that’s a better perception for the consumer. And from the business point of view, sweetener engineering and sweetener economics has become higher and higher on companies’ radars in order to manage costs.
What kind of sweetener blends are beverage makers often using and which do you anticipate seeing more of in 2013?
Jeremy Thompson, global director, product management for Natural Sweeteners, Tate & Lyle: There’s a wide variety and it comes down to the variety of formulating goals, taste quality and what label impact they are looking to have. There’s widespread use of things like sucralose and ace-k, as manufacturers optimize the synergistic effects. With sucralose, it can be used in combination with sugar at a lower cost since you’re using less sugar. Stevia is making its way into more products and data on stevia from a Mintel study finds that stevia is formulated with sugar 60 percent of the time and 35 percent of the time with high-intensity sweeteners. Customers often taste bitterness with reb A sweeteners and we think this blending is being done in particular because of that bitterness impact.
Shafer: Ingredion’s sweetness portfolio has a diverse offering including naturally sourced, zero calorie Enliten Reb A stevia sweetener and a natural, low calorie bulking sweetener, Erysta erythritol. For more traditional sweeteners we have a nutritive portfolio including high fructose and glucose syrups.
James Kemplen, VP of marketing, Sweet Green Fields, maker of natural rebiana (Reb-A) sweeteners: With the increase of obesity and diabetes, I think we’ll begin to see companies really embracing this blending concept. Both domestically and in Europe, if you look at the most successful products that have been utilizing stevia, you’re beginning to see that a balance between fructose and sucrose and stevia extracts actually provides an excellent tasting product. In some ways, it’s the best of both worlds as you’re still utilizing the positive qualities of sucrose, with it’s mouthfeel and texture, coupled with the low-calorie aspect of stevia extracts. Trop 50 is one example of marrying sucrose and stevia in order to get the benefits of both, primarily for the consumer.
Steve Keim, senior director, flavor division, Prinova USA. Prinova offers a wide variety of natural, artificial and nutritive sweeteners including stevia, sucralose, monk fruit, neotame and sugar alcohols: More and more beverages are able to be naturally sweetened with reduced calories. Stevia will continue to grow into a wider market and flavor companies will continue to develop technologies that will enhance its capabilities.
With the trend toward all-natural beverages, do you think natural sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit extract will grow in prominence?
Thompson: We certainly are expecting to see greater use of monk fruit extract. Eighteen months ago, we launched a new line of sweeteners under the PureFruit monk fruit extract brand, and we expect to see more and more of that in 2013. It’s made from fruit and data suggests that this is appealing to consumers and intuititve that a good-tasting, healthy sweetness comes out of a fruit. On the taste front, it doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste with stevia or Reb A sweeteners. In terms of stability, it’s a very stable product, and, all in all, based on the amount of activity we’ve seen in the past 18 months, we expect to see more monk fruit extract in the next year.
Steve Wolf, director of flavor applications at Robertet Flavors About two years ago, we at Robertet Flavors USA started to get involved and see what we could do on the flavor side to help modulate sweetness when working with some of these natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit. Our flavors group has been working with our sensory testing group to come up with flavors that we are calling enhancers. With these enhancers, we are putting together a toolbox to help people in their efforts in improving the perception of sweetness in their finished products. We’ve found that there is not one magic bullet, either a blend of sweeteners or sweetness modulators. There’s not one system that works across the board, as some sweetener and sweetness modulator blends work better with citrus flavors, and some seem to work better with berry flavors.
Brandon Olson, director of research and development, Prinova USA: We will see more stevia products focused to include less Reb A and more of the other glycosides found naturally in the plant. An example is Prinova’s OvaSweet 120 which has a more rounded balance in its sweetness profile. We’ve seen the biggest complaint with Reb A is a lingering metallic or licorice note, and this OvaSweet has virtually no aftertaste.
Anything else to expect in the sweetener market in 2013?
Kemplen: At Sweet Green Fields, we have been working very hard on the organic side of the business. We have taken well over a year to really work on the processing of organic stevia extracts to meet the really stringent guidelines of the National Organic Program, as well as European Union. It’s been a rather trailblazing process, in order to make certain that we have authenticated all those processes to meet those standards, and we plan to launch an organic stevia extract in mid January.
Ihab Bishay, senior director, business development and application innovation at Ajinomoto: Advantame is a new ingredient that we’ve been working on here at Ajinomoto. It’s a derivative of aspartame combined with vanillin. As a sweetener, it’s a very economical sweetener and it has a very sweet taste. It’s very useful for blending with other sweeteners, in terms of reducing cost and calories, and it has a good taste profile. Advantame has general use approval as a sweetener in Australia and New Zealand and here in the U.S. it has general flavor approval as it has FEMA GRAS status. We are pursuing sweetener approval in the U.S., the European Union and Japan and anticipate approval in the U.S. this year.