Sweetness Enhancing and Flavoring Benefits
August 2011/Prepared Foods -- Sugar is the basis to which all other sweeteners are compared. The general population can detect sweetness in solutions of about 0.5% sugar, said Jack Fastag, flavor chemist, David Michael & Co., in his presentation, “Sweetness Enhancers: Sensing the Sweet Taste of Sugar,” at the 2010 R&D Applications Seminars-East.
In 2003, researchers in the Human Genome project advanced understanding on how sweetness is detected at the molecular level. The mechanics involve gustducin, a “G-protein signaling molecule,” which was identified as being bound to “sweet” genes called Tas1R2 and Tas1R3. When certain compounds bind with T1R2 and T1R3, gustducin is activated, and sweetness is perceived. T1R2 and T1R3 will bind with a large range of substances that then trigger a sweet taste, including sucrose, synthetic sweeteners and certain amino acids, proteins, aldehydes and ketones.
Sucrose contains calories, but no nutritional value (other than energy). It promotes tooth decay, increases blood sugar levels linked to diabetes and elevated triglyceride levels, and contributes to overweight and obesity, said Fastag. Additionally, the desire for sweet taste increases with age. This has driven the demand for sucrose alternatives and, increasingly, natural sucrose replacements. Options today include dried fruit puree, fruit juice, rapadura, maple syrup, maple sugar, honey, stevia, molasses, barley malt extract, wheat syrup, rice syrup, corn syrup, brown sugar and agave nectar.
Natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup, may have flavors associated with them. For example, Grade A Light Amber maple syrup is very light and has a mild, more delicate maple flavor. Grade A Medium Amber is a bit darker and has slightly more maple flavor. Grade A Dark Amber is darker yet, with an even stronger maple flavor. Grade B, sometimes called cooking syrup, is very dark, with a very strong maple flavor, as well as some caramel flavor.
High-intensity sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar; for example, stevia is approximately 300 times sweeter and aspartame 200 times sweeter. Lugduname is one of the most potent sweetening agents known and is estimated to be between 200,000-300,000 times as sweet as sucrose.
Flavorings (aromatic compounds) can also play a role in sucrose replacement. Some sweeteners have flavor issues, and natural flavors can be used to bring out the best in a sweetener. Sweetness can be enhanced by the presence of a flavoring; for example, a sweet solution tastes sweeter in the presence of vanilla aroma, noted Fastag. “Sweetness enhancers are designed to intensify the perception and potency of traditional sweeteners, such as sugar, fructose and honey. They can complement characterizing flavor notes, increase flavor impact and minimize unwanted aftertaste,” he said.
Experimental design has helped determine that when the perception of sweetness is enhanced, even as sucrose has been reduced or substituted with other compounds, a finished product can be developed that provides sensory acceptance. Additionally, by reducing sugar and using sweetness enhancers, costs can be lowered by 10%. This helps lead to a product’s sustained marketability.
During the 2010 presentation, Fastag warned a sugar shortage may be coming, in that sugar prices were hitting 28-year highs. “With the average American consuming 150lbs of sugar per year, the sugar outlook is not so sweet,” he said. The supply of sugar is tight, due to too little rain in India and too much in Brazil. And, with the proposed soda tax and increased pricing, the solution is sweetness enhancers.

“Sweetness Enhancers: Sensing the Sweet Taste of Sugar,” Jack Fastag, David Michael & Co., 215-632-3100, dmflavor@dmflavors.com, www.dmflavors.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor


Isomaltulose, the Next Generation Sugar
Diet-related diseases are on the rise, such as obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and dental caries. “But we still have to eat,” says Tonja Lipp, area sales manager at BENEO. In his presentation, “Physiological Benefits of Balanced and Sustained Carbohydrate Energy--Isomaltulose, the Next Generation Sugar,” given during R&D Applications Seminars-Chicago, Lipp noted that calories are needed for the constant supply of energy required to maintain all basic life processes, such as breathing, blood circulation, body temperature maintenance and brain activity.
The amount of energy needed depends on how vigorous the activity is; how long it is performed; age, gender, build; and other physiological factors. The human body uses three sources of energy: carbohydrates, fat and protein. Carbohydrates are the most important ones, because they provide a direct, fast energy supply to the body. Fat is stored as triglycerides in the adipose tissue and muscle, and protein functions mainly in other ways than an energy supply, but is used by the body, if it is short on other energy sources. 
“The concept of the glycemic index is that the slower the rate of carbohydrate absorption, the lower the rise of blood glucose,” Lipp explained. Health benefits are associated with reduced glycemic response, including reduced insulin demand, improved blood glucose control and reduced blood lipid levels. These are factors in prevention and management of diseases, like overweight and obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease.
To achieve a low-glycemic, carbohydrate-based diet, either the quantity or the quality of the carbohydrates need to be altered. Researchers have found that, among healthy adults, the lowest risk of becoming overweight or obese may be obtained by a carbohydrate-based diet (as opposed to a diet with low carbohydrate content). According to one study (Merchant AT, et al. 2009. J Am Diet Assoc. 109(7):1165-72), 47-64% of energy should derive from carbohydrates. Furthermore, low-carbohydrate diets are likely to correspond with increased fat intake and, thus, are not recommended. “But, it is possible to achieve a carbohydrate-based, low-glycemic diet; what is important, in this respect, is carbohydrate quality,” Lipp stated.
High-glycemic carbohydrates can either be replaced by low-glycemic carbohydrates (such as isomaltulose), or available carbohydrates can be replaced with low- or non-available carbohydrates (like polyols, isomalt, fibers).

Isomaltulose, a natural constituent of honey, is a slow-release, low-glycemic, fully available, non-cariogenic disaccharide. (See chart “Isomaltulose Blood Glucose Response Curve.”) Sugar and isomaltulose have very similar molecular structures (glucose and fructose), but in isomaltulose, the 1,6 linkage between fructose and glucose is much stronger than the 1,2 linkage in sucrose and is key to isomaltulose’s much higher stability. It is slowly (about 4-5 times slower than sucrose) but completely absorbed in the small intestine and is very well-tolerated.

With a mild sweetness, isomaltulose is highly stable under acidic conditions and exhibits low hygroscopicity. Suitable for a wide range of foods and beverages, its applications thus far include functional beverages, sports nutrition, dairy, meal replacement, special nutrition, confectionery and baked goods.
Lipp also explained isomaltulose promotes an improved fat oxidation under physical activity, supporting prolonged energy supply. This is due to the balanced energy release resulting in a low-glycemic and insulinemic response. A study showed that, with isomaltulose, fat oxidation is increased by 25% compared with maltodextrin. Isomaltulose is a versatile tool for use in energy balance, weight management and lifestyle improvement.

“Physiological Benefits of Balanced and Sustained Carbohydrate Energy--Isomaltulose, the Next Generation Sugar,” Tonja Lipp, area sales manager, BENEO, tonja.lipp@beneo.com, www.beneo.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Formulating with Erythritol, Naturally
The reasons for reducing sugar in foods and in the diet are numerous, including obesity, diabetes, dental caries and overall health. Sugary beverages are often seen as a contributing factor in these widespread health problems. The current average daily intake from added sugar is 355 calories, noted one speaker from Jungbunzlauer AG, in his presentation, “Natural Calorie and Sugar Reduction, Formulating with Erythritol in Food and Beverage Systems,” at Prepared Foods’ 2010 R&D Applications Seminars-East.

Erythritol is an innovative, natural and low-calorie bulk sweetener with unique properties and benefits. Very low in calories, at 0.2Kcal/g, erythritol is 60-70% as sweet as sugar with a similar bulk density. Erythritol is non-cariogenic, has low hydroscopicity and a zero glycemic index, as well as a high digestive tolerance. Upon dissolution, it imparts a cooling sensation. A prime benefit of erythritol is that low-calorie and/or low-sugar foods can be formulated to have similar properties as their sugar-containing counterparts, according to Jungbunzlauer.
Erythritol naturally exists in foods like honey, soy sauce, grapes and melons. It is made from carbohydrates, such as corn, and is produced through the natural process of fermentation, using non-GMO yeast.

Erythritol has one of the highest laxation thresholds of any polyol and, consequently, the highest digestive tolerance. “With no impact on blood sugar levels, erythritol is ideal for diabetic foods and low-glycemic index (GI) weight management plans,” according to the company. A low-GI diet helps to manage blood glucose levels, reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease, and maintain healthy weight.
Erythritol works well in zero- or low-calorie beverages, providing natural sweetness and bulking. Its cooling effect is beneficial in chewing gum, along with its lower laxative effect. Erythritol is also synergistic with high-intensity sweeteners, such as stevia. The combination is effective in bakery products and ice cream, with the ability to improve existing products or develop new, innovative items. By replacing other polyols, taste can be improved, laxative effect reduced and, often, a greater calorie reduction can be achieved, according to Jungbunzlauer. When replacing high-intensity sweeteners, erythritol adds mouthfeel and texture, and reduces off-notes and aftertaste, while adding natural character.

When creating a product equal in sweetness to sugar, considerations are that the flavor profile is not exactly the same as sugar or HFCS; therefore, formula modifications may be necessary to offset minor flavor changes. However, a product may not need to be duplicated, as a completely different product sometimes better serves the market. Keeping in mind the finished product must meet levels in GRAS listings, erythritol is GRAS in a number of foods. (See the chart “Regulatory Aspects of Erythritol.”)

One consideration is the cost may be slightly higher. However, the added health benefits and ability to make claims, such as “all-natural” and/or “low- or no-calorie,” may offset any additional costs and attract new consumers to the brand, concluded the company.
“Natural Calorie and Sugar Reduction: Formulating with Erythritol in Food and Beverage Systems,” Jungbunzlauer AG, 800-828-0062, healthychoices@jungbunzlauer.com, www.jungbunzlauer.com
—Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

Applications for Stevia-derived Reb A Expand
Native to Paraguay, the stevia plant, rebaudiana bertoni, grows naturally between 20-25° latitude, in slightly acidic, well-drained soil, in temperatures of 15-30°C. In 2009, 90% of commercial stevia production occurred in China, but production is expanding widely from equatorial to tropical and temperate climates, said Sidd Purkayastha, Ph.D., vice president, global technical development and support, PureCircle Limited.
During his presentation, “Stevia-derived Reb A--Natural for Food Applications,” at Prepared Foods’ 2009 R&D Applications Seminars-Chicago, Purkayastha went on to say that once picked, the stevia leaves are steeped in water, much like tea, and the stevia glycosides are removed from the leaf biomass. The stevia extract is then dissolved in solution, where the Reb A is crystallized and separated from the other steviol glycosides. The production of highly purified Reb A is a multi-stage process with very strict control. The result is a product that is some 300 times as sweet as sugar.
The quality of Reb A is about more than just purity; the other glycosides and impurities are key. Manufacturers need consistent ingredients for consistent applications, and quality starts with the leaf. The better the leaf, the better the end product, Purkayastha said. Purity has an effect on sensory perception. Reb A is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), with a purity of ≥95% or up to 97% with some suppliers. Reb A, on an ingredient statement, can be listed as “Reb A (natural stevia leaf sweetener).”

In dry form, Reb A is highly stable, with no degradation observed over the first two years of a five-year storage study. It is noteworthy that the hydrolytic breakdown products of Reb A are steviol glycosides, which are sweet and, thus, the loss of sweetness, even in cola beverages, is negligible over the normal shelflife period, Purkayastha added.

In solution, it is hydrolytically labile at low pH; most noticeably less stable at pH below 2; and most stable between pH 4-8. Stability decreases as temperature increases, especially when the pH is below 3. There is no degradation with light exposure.

Applications thus far include its use as a table-top sweetener for coffee and tea; and in beverages, carbonated soft drinks, still beverages and powder drink mixes. Other uses include dairy, ice cream, yogurts, sherbets, baked goods, cakes and biscuits, cereals, bars, jams, sauces, pickles, puddings, desserts, chewing gum, confections, seafood and vegetables. It is used in foods for weight management and in diabetic diets.

Suggested use levels are between 0.06-0.22%, depending on the application, Purkayastha advised. Application challenges include low maximal response, bitterness at high concentration, lingering sweetness, desensitization and loss in bulk. The solutions to these issues include using masking agents, sweetness boosters, bulking agents and working with flavor suppliers to achieve the flavor profile desired. Sweetness enhancement is used to enhance the upfront sweetness of reduced-sugar products. Masking successfully covers off-notes. A bulking agent can add body and mouthfeel to low-sugar products, which may be needed, due to the loss of sugar functions in the formula. Blending small amounts of caloric or non-caloric sweeteners provides better sweetness profiles.
Reb A shows excellent synergy with sugar and several polyols. Acid blends, like citric and malic acids, can contribute to better sweetness and flavor profiles in beverages, dairy and baked goods, as well. pf

“Stevia-derived Reb A--Natural Food Applications,” Sidd Purkayastha, Ph.D., vice president, global technical development and support, PureCircle Limited, 630-361-0374, info.usa@purecircle.com, www.purecircle.com
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor