By Julia Gallo-Torres, Managing Editor

Sweetening products can present a roaring challenge. Consumer interest in health, weight and wellness has spawned wild growth in foods and beverages with reduced sugar content. A 2004 survey by the Calorie Control Council (Atlanta) showed that 84% of the respondents regularly use foods and beverages that are considered to be low-calorie, reduced-sugar and sugar-free. In March 2005, the Freedonia Group Inc. (Cleveland), market analysts, predicted the demand for high-intensity sweeteners will grow 8.3% yearly until 2008.

Perhaps the essential lesson the low-fat and low-carb trends taught formulators is that, to food shoppers, taste matters the most. A line of neotame-based blends, produced by Sweetener Solutions LLC (Savannah, Ga.), a strategic partner of The NutraSweet Co., and distributed exclusively by Univar USA (Kirkland, Wash.), provides formulators with ingredients that can be used as both a general sweetener and flavor enhancer.

The Right Blend

The proprietary neotame blends are co-processed with sugar, maltodextrins, digestion-resistant fibers and polyols, depending upon the demands of the product application. While there are several items in the line, John Curry, vice president, business development, Sweetener Solutions, says the most popular blend is SucraSweet™ HIS 600, a proprietary blend of neotame, acesulfame potassium and crystalline maltitol that is 600 times sweeter than sugar (the sweetness equivalent is referred to as SE). “The blend is a drop-in replacement for another high-intensity sweetener of the same sweetness level that is now in short supply, and difficult for customers to source,” explains Curry. The product works well in applications such as dairy drinks, dressings and sauces, snack foods, desserts, baked goods, beverages and confectionery applications.

Another blend, Maltotame™ M10-2.5, features maltodextrin and neotame, and is 200 times SE, and the Maltotame M10-2.5 FIB blend incorporates neotame with digestion-resistant (fiber-based) maltodextrin. Maltotame can replace sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) at 20%-40%. Its fiber-enhanced counterpart also can be used at 20%-40% to replace either sucrose-based sweeteners or other high-intensity sweeteners in low-carb applications. “We currently have numerous fruit drink manufacturers replacing 20% of their HFCS usage with Maltotame, and that has created significant cost savings without changing the flavor,” Curry points out.

The neotame blends allow manufacturers to create good-tasting consumer products while saving costs by replacing just a portion of their nutritive sweeteners with the neotame-based blends. “Reducing sugar remains a key trend with our food customers in 2005,” says Beth Warren, director of marketing, Univar Food Ingredients. “These new blends are versatile with excellent flowability and dispersion properties.” She adds, “The FDA approved neotame in July 2002 as an ingredient to enhance a product’s overall sweetness, and to elevate the flavors of mint, vanilla, berry and citrus.” Neotame blends have benefits that impact the overall flavor profile of the food formulation, and provide cost improvement opportunities.

Curry observes that blending multiple high-intensity sweeteners is a relatively new practice in the U.S., and that some manufacturers may not feel comfortable using neotame alone in the production process.“Our blends help to ease that apprehension by allowing for ease of measurement and use; consistent sweetener ingredient dispersal and cost savings that only neotame and our company blends bring to the bottom line.”

For more information:
Univar Food Ingredients, Beth Warren