Sweetness is not only a basic taste; it is also a characteristic that makes food desirable. All sweeteners, including both nutritive and artificial products, use sucrose as the standard when measuring overall sweetness. However, is sucrose the ideal sweetener?

Researchers at Takasago International Corporation have utilized basic and applied sweetener research to develop core competencies within the company and to better understand the complexities of flavor and sweetness interactions. “The ultimate goal of this work is to create better products for use in the beverage industry and beyond,” noted Jennifer B. Mei, Ph.D., sensate flavor chemist at the company, in her presentation “Masking Artificial Sweeteners in Beverage Applications,” given at the 2007 Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminar.

“Our research includes working with nutritive sweeteners such as sucrose, plus the five low-calorie, non-nutritive sweeteners currently approved for use in the U.S.,” Mei adds. These five products include sucralose, saccharin, neotame, aspartame and acesulfame potassium (ace-K). Each of these products has different descriptive sensory profiles. (See chart “Sweeteners’ Sensory Profiles.”)   

Takasago has a test panel consisting of 16 people who have been highly trained in taste, aftertaste, mouthfeel and body attributes of sweeteners. Using this panel, the company is seeking to develop sweet flavors that will provide users with a balance of sweetness, minimal bitterness, good mouthfeel and other desirable sensory properties. Many of these characteristics are used to mask bitterness, which can be a concern with non-nutritive sweeteners. The end result of this work is Takasago’s Intensates®. Utilizing these materials in various combinations and permutations can block and mask bitterness. These masking sweeteners have, however, been found to be quite effective in a number of different applications including vitamin water, diet iced teas and diet juice drinks.

For example, a vitamin water formulated with berry flavor plus an Intensate flavor at 0.10% yields a beverage that not only masks the sweetener, but also the vitamins and minerals included in these products. “Such products are normally manufactured with the flavor, plus sucralose and acesulfame potassium. With the diet iced tea, another Intensate product at 0.03% masks sweetness and preservatives,” noted Mei. There is, however, no one ingredient or combination that will work on all types of bitterness. With this understanding, Takasago aims to work with each customer to find the optimum solution.

The company has been actively developing proprietary products to mask various off-flavors in beverage systems. Takasago’s Intensate products can be used in beverages and many other applications. Processors looking to enhance the overall flavor, mouthfeel and acceptance of new or existing products may wish to consider these ingredients. In addition, Takasago’s trained panel of experts helps potential users find the best application to meet their needs.

For more information:
Takasago International Corp., Rockleigh, N.J.
Jennifer B. Mei, 201-767-9001