1+1=3. If you arrived at that conclusion in elementary school, you would have had your knuckles rapped. Or at least you wouldn’t have gotten that gold star. But that equation has become a cornerstone when formulating with sweetener blends today.
Of course, I’m talking about synergy, which can be defined as occurring when the sweetness of a mixture of sweeteners is greater than the sum of their respective, individual sweetness intensities. Blending sweeteners to achieve that property has become a common industry practice, as food formulators keep searching for that ideal level of sweetness in food and beverage products. Or to put it more poetically, for that frequently elusive “Holy Grail.”
Keep in mind this article will be discussing a variety of sweeteners and that these sweeteners exhibit a range of apparent potencies. The reason the word “apparent” is used here is because sweetener systems are complex and it is difficult to isolate out the effect of one sweetener from another in the system. This is true for the food formulator. And I might add it is especially true for me. As I write this article, I get confused sometimes wondering what one sweetener is contributing versus another in a specific food formulation. However, what is really important, of course, is how much sweetness is delivered and at what level of sweetener. More about this will be discussed later in this article.
And, when working with sweeteners, the level of sweetness is not the only factor to be considered. The texture and mouthfeel of the food or beverage, impact on the finished product’s appearance, aftertaste, flavor enhancement or masking capabilities, levels of cooling, stability, ability to brown because of the Maillard reaction, the lessening or elimination of problems encountered in processing, and calorie or dietetic considerations are only some of the considerations when working with sweeteners and sweetener combinations. And again, like with sweetness, synergy can play an important role in providing the necessary “sweet” solutions to what could be expensive, time-consuming, or even hair-ripping dilemmas.
To meet the desired sweetness levels, as well as the functionality and health needs mentioned above, a variety of different sweetener combinations have been tried. And I expect new combinations of sweeteners will be discovered tomorrow. Here are a few examples of “sweetener equations” that will be discussed in this article.
• Polyol + inulin = reduced cooling in low-calorie chocolates.
• Tagatose + erythritol + sucralose = sweetener formula for Diet Pepsi–flavored Slurpee® frozen drink.
• Acesulfame-K (30%) + aspartame (70%) = optimum sweetener formula for hot coffee or tea.
--- PAGE BREAK ---Acesulfame-K (30%) + aspartame (70%) = optimum sweetener formula for hot coffee or tea.
• Lactitol + polydextrose = sweetener formula for sugar-free chocolate confections.
• Polydextrose + high-intensity sweetener = sweetener combinations which may be used as alternatives to high-fructose corn syrup.
• Sucrose (99%) + neotame (1%) = lower-calorie granulated sugar blends.
• Sucrose + flavor system = sweetness inhibitor.
Although blending sweeteners in search for the right synergy has become a common practice in the food industry, one must also remember that sweetener combinations do not always behave in the way that you might expect them to behave. The wrong combination of sweeteners or an application that is not suitable for a particular sweetener combination can produce results that are less than desirable.
For that reason, food formulators have to modify the way they use sweeteners in different formulations. In other words, there is no one comprehensive golden rule to apply to all sweeteners. Unless that rule is that all sweeteners are different. To be successful with them, food formulators must be aware of the properties of the different sweeteners, how they are going to be used, how they have fared in other similar applications, how they might fare in different applications, and any new studies providing further information on how they interact with other sweeteners or other ingredients.
This month’s Ingredients section will discuss recent developments in the area of sweeteners or ingredients related to sweeteners. These include tagatose, polyols, trehalose, acesulfame-K, neotame, aspartame, sucralose, inulin and oligofructose, polydextrose, and nutritive sweeteners such as sucrose, honey, crystalline fructose, and brown rice syrup.
This article is designed primarily as an update—for a broader, more detailed review of sweeteners, see the Developing Foods Special Report in the July 2002 issue of Food Technology. Also, a 2-p sidebar describing the interaction between salty and sweet will be on page 54.
Let’s now look at how sweet these developments can be:
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Tagatose, a reduced-calorie sweetener, has a physical bulk similar to sucrose or table sugar, is almost as sweet, and provides 1.5 kcal/g. It is found naturally in some dairy foods, but the commercial product is made by a patented process which includes hydrolysis of lactose to galactose and then isomerization to tagatose. A structural isomer of fructose, tagatose is incompletely absorbed—a major portion of ingested tagatose passes into the colon where it is fermented. Key functionality properties include high solubility, high melting point, quick crystallization, stability from pH 3 to 7, and Maillard reactive.
The sweetener recently was introduced to the U.S. under the name Gaio® by Arla Foods Ingredients, Inc., 2840 Morris Ave., Union, NJ 07083 (phone 908-964-4420; fax 908-964-6270; www.gaio-tagatose.com). The company has the exclusive worldwide rights to produce and commercialize tagatose marketed under that trade name for food applications. In 1996, MD Foods (since merged with the Swedish Arla amba to form Arla Foods) bought the rights to the sweetener from the technology firm Spherix, formerly Biospherics Inc., Beltsville, Md. Spherix will produce its own tagatose (marketed under the name Naturlose) for nonfood uses.
The first commercial production of the sweetener was announced in May 2003 based on a cooperative effort with the German sugar company Nordzucker producing the sweetener. (Extracted from the milk sugar lactose, tagatose has a similar production process to sugar.) This cooperative effort has more recently led to a joint venture company, called SweetGredients—the only commercial supply source of the sweetener using the combined capabilities of Arla Foods Ingredients and Nordzucker. The sweetener is distributed in the U.S. by Arla Foods Ingredients.
According to the manufacturer, tagatose demonstrates synergistic properties when combined with low-calorie sweeteners, improving the taste profile and mouthfeel of the finished product made with these other sweetener alternatives. It can function as a flavor enhancer, even at very low levels; it can help mask or eliminate off–tastes, bitterness, and mouth drying—qualities that are frequently common to products made with sugar substitutes; and it can improve mouthfeel—as well as color—of the product.
Most recently, in combination with sucralose and erythritol (both will be discussed in this article), tagatose is being used in the formulation of a no-calorie, frozen carbonated beverage, Diet Pepsi–flavored Slurpee®, recently launched nationwide by participating 7-Eleven® convenience stores in the U.S.
The combination of sweeteners reportedly provides bulk, allowing the drink to keep its signature consistency, and preventing it from freezing up in the Slurpee machine and turning the drink into a block of ice. Equally important, tagatose acts as a flavor enhancer to improve the taste of the diet product. The resulting formulation has zero calories (compared to the regular frozen drink which is said to have more than 100 kcal per 8-oz serving) and provides an example of a reformulated product which may appeal to consumers (especially Slurpee lovers) who want to cut down on calories for weight or health reasons.
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Tagatose also offers a number of other functionality benefits. It can enhance toffee and mint flavors, prolong the sweetness delivery in chewing gum, improve the taste and color of milk chocolate, and brown easily because of the Maillard reaction (which may or may not be a limitation). Because of these benefits, tagatose is suitable for use in a variety of products where sucrose is used, including confections, ice creams, soft drinks, cereals, and meal replacements.
A number of these applications were highlighted at the 2003 IFT Food Expo®. For example, Arla demonstrated the sweetener in chocolate, soft-serve ice cream, a nutritious smoothie, and chicken with a cheese powder coating. Kerry Food Ingredients also highlighted a prototype formulation, Marionberry Bursts, a soy product sweetened with tagatose.
Gaio tagatose has a self-affirmed GRAS status and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2001. Since then, Arla Food Ingredients has made a revision of the food categories for which tagatose is considered GRAS. New on the list is yogurt with a dosage level of 2%; milk chocolate at 3%; noncarbonated diet soft drinks at 1%; smoothies, coffee drinks, and protein drinks at 1%; and low-calorie table-top sweeteners at 1 g per serving. The dosage level for chewing gum has been reduced to 30%. The use of the sweetener in certain dietary supplement types has also been added.
In addition to its functionality, the sweetener also offers a variety of potential health benefits. It may be used as a prebiotic, stimulating the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system; is suitable for individuals who are interested in a “low-carb diet,” including diabetics since it does not affect glucose level in the blood; and, as already mentioned, offers an opportunity to reformulate products for consumers who are interested in cutting calories for weight management or other health reasons.
Furthermore, a new dental health claim has been approved for tagatose by the FDA. The agency has previously concluded that there was significant scientific agreement on the relationship between slowly fermented carbohydrate sugar substitutes and the non-promotion of dental caries. Since tagatose is a carbohydrate sweetener that is slowly fermented by oral microorganisms, thus producing less acid than more fermentable carbohydrates, it is possible to make the claim that tagatose “does not promote tooth decay,” or “may reduce the risk of tooth decay.”
Tagatose is also approved in Korea; procedures for its approval are underway in Australia and New Zealand; Japan is expected to approve it by 2004; and South America is currently reviewing it.
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Recent developments regarding sucralose were discussed in an interview with Carolyn Merkel, Executive Director, Ingredients Technology, McNeil Nutritionals, 317 George St., New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2400 (phone 800-777-5363).
The sugar-derived sweetener, manufactured and marketed under the name Splenda by the company, is made using a process which selectively replaces three hydrogen–oxygen groups on the sugar molecule. It offers zero calories because it cannot be metabolized by the human body. The ingredient, which received FDA approval in 1999, has a clean, sugar-like taste with no aftertaste and remains stable at high temperatures and across a wide pH range.
The potency of low-calorie sweeteners is quoted at a particular reference point, typically at about 5% sucrose equivalence, which is about the sweetness of two teaspoons of sugar in a cup of coffee, explained Merkel. She noted, “At this sweetness level, sucralose is about 600 times the sweetness of sugar—in other words, instead of using 5% sugar, you will use 5%/600 = 0.0083% sucralose to achieve the same sweetness. When higher levels of sweetness are needed—for example, approximately 11% sucrose equivalence in soft drinks—the apparent potency of sucralose is less, or about 500 times that of sugar. When lower levels of sweetness are needed—for example, replacing 3% of the sugar in a soft drink—apparent potencies of 700 or more can be achieved.”
Some sweeteners, when used in combination, show even higher than expected levels of potency. An example of this is when sucralose is combined with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). According to Merkel, in products where sucralose is combined with HFCS, the apparent potency of sucralose is normally more than 800 times that of sugar, and in some applications is as high as 1,400 times that of sugar. As the potency increases, the amount of product needed to achieve the same sweetening power decreases.”
Merkel also added that as systems are complex, it is difficult to isolate out the effect of one sweetener from another in the system. Typically, all of the increase in potency is ascribed to the intense sweetener and not to the non-intense sweetener. In other words, sucrose is considered to have a potency of 1, whether it is at 10% or 5% level, while any increase in sweetness intensity that you may get in combining sucrose with sucralose is ascribed to increased potency of sucralose. This is probably an academic discussion because what really counts is how much sweetness is delivered at what level of sweetener.
In addition, when combined with sweeteners, sucralose can provide an improvement in overall taste to the finished product, giving advantages both on the sweetness level and on the taste level.
One recent application that demonstrated the effectiveness of sucralose with other sweeteners was mentioned earlier in this article—a Diet Pepsi–flavored Slurpee that was formulated with sucralose, tagatose, and erythritol. In this formulation, while tagatose and erythritol primarily functioned as bulking agents, providing a desirable mouthfeel and freezing point depression, sucralose was used to make up the sweetness. Furthermore, it is very soluble, has high stability, and is well dispersed in the mix.
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Sucralose may be used in a broad range of products. Its use level varies with the sweetness level desired and the other ingredients and flavor systems used in the specific formulation. Merkel noted, for example, that sucralose is being used in sweet microwave popcorns because of its functionality benefits. See sidebar on page 54 for discussion.
Recently, researchers at the University of Missouri developed lower-calorie vanilla-flavored ice creams using the sucralose in place of sugar. The researchers found that the taste of ice creams with up to half of the sucrose replaced with sucralose was comparable to ice creams containing none of the sweetener.
And right at press time, another product was introduced that is sweetened with sucralose: No-Sugar-Added Baked Minis and Dough Pieces. The inclusions, available from Jana’s Classics, Inc. (phone 800-366-5262; www.janas.com) may be used in ice creams developed for individuals concerned about weight management or diabetes.
Because of its benefits, this sweetener will continue to provide an important piece in the formulation puzzle, especially as interest continues to grow in developing products for weight management and diabetics. For the past several months, Ingredients sections have been discussing the role of ingredients in reformulating foods, how these ingredients are making foods healthier as well as tastier. Merkel also emphasized that consumers are looking for flavors and textures that they are accustomed to, and that they do not want to sacrifice those qualities, even in lower-calorie products or reformulated foods. She maintained that because of its synergistic benefits, sucralose can help deliver a product that meets those expectations by the consumer, and she predicted that the future should be an exciting time for food formulators as they meet both health and flavor challenges.
“When formulating with sweeteners,” she said, “we’re always trying to achieve the Holy Grail. To find it, we keep building on the knowledge that we previously acquired.”
Interest in polyols for their use in product development continues to grow for a number of reasons. From a functional standpoint, they offer a clean taste, and especially in combination with other sweeteners, they can provide bulk and improve texture and mouthfeel. Furthermore, they have fewer calories than sugars; foods formulated with them offer potential benefits for diabetics as they do not cause sudden increases in blood sugar levels; and they do not promote tooth decay.
Not all eight polyols available for use in the U.S. are the same. There are differences in terms of sweetness levels, caloric values, amount of cooling effect (and whether that cooling effect is desirable or not in a certain application), and levels of digestive tolerance. And some polyols, if taken at higher levels, may have laxative effects. In short, some polyols are better suited for specific applications than others. And their positive benefits can be further enhanced (or their negative characteristics minimized) by other sweeteners or sweetening-related ingredients. All these factors have to be taken into consideration when formulating with polyols.
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The following are some of the newest developments related to polyols.
• Erythritol. Erythritol, marketed under the brand name Eridex™, is available from Cargill Food and Pharma Specialties, 15407 McGinty Rd. W., MS 46, Wayzata, MN 55391 (phone 877-650- 7080; fax 319-399-6170; www.cargillfoods.com). The newest polyol, it is 70% as sweet as sugar, offering a clean sweet taste; is highly stable against heat and acid; is moderately soluble in water; and has a low hygroscopicity and excellent crystalline properties. Working well with other sweeteners, it may be used in a variety of applications, including beverages, confections, dairy products, baked goods, and tabletop sweeteners.
The manufacturer cites certain advantages of this polyol over other polyols. Erythritol provides a maximum of 0.2 kcal/g—the lowest caloric value of the polyols (sorbitol, 2.6; xylitol, 2.4; maltitol, 2.1; isomalt, 2.0; and lactitol, 2.0). Furthermore, clinical studies have shown that it has a digestive tolerance two to three times better than xylitol, lactitol, maltitol, and isomalt, and three to four times better than sorbitol or mannitol. It is also the only polyol approved for sugar-free beverage applications, making it suitable for diet soft drinks, flavored waters and milks, sports drinks, smoothies, and iced teas.
When used in combination with intense sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, or acesulfame-K, erythritol can improve flavor profile, add body and mouthfeel, and mask bitterness and astringency. Keep in mind that it was used in combination with other sweeteners to produce the no-calorie Slurpee drink discussed in the previous sections. Moreover, in sugar-free chocolate, sweetener blends using the polyol can produce a 30% caloric reduction while providing excellent gloss, texture, and melting characteristics.
Erythritol has a cooling effect in the mouth, which could provide advantages in certain applications. For example, in sugar-free chewing gum, the polyol’s cooling effect can enhance the fresh taste of the gum. At the 2003 IFT Food Expo, several prototypes were highlighted by companies which demonstrated the cooling effect of the polyol. Cargill highlighted Key Lime Pie Bar for Women, which showed how the use of the polyol in the filling could provided a cooling mouthfeel that complemented the key lime flavor. In a no-sugar-added mint chocolate bar, featured by Kerry Food Ingredients-North America, erythritol demonstrated a cooling effect which was said to go well with mint.
• Maltitol. The largest on-campus creamery in the nation, The Creamery at Penn State University (PSU), has launched a new no-sugar-added premium ice cream featuring a maltitol syrup (Maltisweet™ IC) available from SPI Polyols, Inc., 321 Cherry Lane, New Castle, DE 19720 (phone 302-576-8554; fax 302-576-8569; www.spipolyols.com).
A collaborative effort between SPI Polyols’ Applications Research/Technical Service, Tharp’s Food Technology, and the PSU Dept. of Food Science, the ice cream made with the maltitol syrup is said to process like a full-sugar ice cream, with excellent taste, texture, and shelf stability. It contains no high-intensity sweeteners or other ingredients normally added to adjust freezing point.
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The liquid polyol, its molecular weight distribution similar to sucrose, may be used as a direct replacement for sucrose in the formulation. (It may also be used as a cost-effective alternative to high-intensity sweeteners with a bulking system.) The ingredient can be used as the sole sweetening agent without adjusting the formulation or manufacturing parameters for a sucrose formulation. Sweetness can be adjusted by slightly increasing the amount of maltitol syrup added. Also, freezing point and shelf life of the no-sugar-added ice cream will be equivalent to a full-sugar ice cream.
• Lactitol. As was mentioned in last month’s Ingredients section, Hershey Food recently introduced nationwide its first sugar-free line of chocolate candies. These confections, intended for consumers with diabetes or those on a restricted carbohydrate diet, were formulated with lactitol, available from Danisco Sweeteners, 440 Saw Mill River Rd., Ardsley, NY 10502-2605 (phone 800-255-6837; fax 914-674-6542; www.danisco.com/sweeteners).
Lactitol, a sugar alcohol derived from milk sugar, has a relative sweetness value 0.3–0.4 times that of sucrose, and is suitable where bulking with a lower sweetness is required. For increased sweetness, it can be blended with intense sweeteners or other bulk sweeteners. Because it is a disacccharide sugar alcohol, it has a similar sweetness profile to that of sucrose, and provides a mild sweetness with no aftertaste. It provides half the calories of sucrose (2.0 kcal/g); has a good solubility, similar to that of sucrose; low hygroscopicity; and a low cooling effect.
In combination with polydextrose (Litesse®), lactitol-sweetened chocolate has reportedly been found to be superior to those using other polyols. Anhydrous lactitol has been brought to the market specifically for use in applications where the inclusion of water is a particular problem, such as chocolate. According to the supplier, the high thermal stability of lactitol, in combination with its similar physical properties to sucrose, means that chocolate manufactured with the polyol is suitable for virtually all applications, including coating, enrobing, and the manufacture of inclusions for bakery applications.
• Isomalt. Isomalt’s natural origin is beet sugar. In a two-step process, the sugar components glucose and fructose are used to make the sweetener. Isomalt is 0.45–0.6 times as sweet as sucrose, yields half the calories, and does not produce a cooling effect. An isomalt product, designed specifically for sugar-free chocolate manufacturing was developed by Palatinit of America, Inc., 101 Gibraltar Dr., Ste. 2-B, Morris Plains, NJ 07950 (phone 973-539-6644; fax 973-326-9508; www.isomaltusa.com).
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Called Isomalt LM, the product is said to have a very low crystal water content, which allows standard processing and conching temperatures to round off the pure cocoa flavor profile and deliver smooth melting behavior in the mouth. Because of its temperature stability, no agglomeration during conching occurs, and the chocolate mass shows stable flow properties during liquid storage. Its naturally sweet taste, fine melting behavior, lack of cooling, and low glycemic response makes the sweetener an ideal sugar replacer for sugarless chocolate coatings, bars, chips, fillings, and all other cocoa products.
At the 2003 SupplySide West, the sweetener (variants DC and ST) was demonstrated in compressed tablets containing lutein and lycopene. Advantages of the sweetener included low hygroscopicity for long shelf life, ideal flowability and very good compressibility, noncariogenicity, and low glycemic index.
• Sorbitol. Liquid sorbitol capacity is being increased by Archer Daniels Midland Co., 4666 Faries Pkwy., Decatur, IL 62526 (phone 217-424-5424; fax 217-424-5580; www.admworld.com). According to the company, capacity will be increased by 60% by the end of 2003. The expansion will be implemented by adding new capacity at its Decatur-based facilities.
Sorbitol, which is 0.6 times as sweet as sucrose, is a versatile and non-cariogenic sweetener that may be used in a variety of applications, including sugar-free food applications. It is produced through the hydrogenation of dextrose, which will be supplied from ADM’s corn wet milling operation located in Decatur.
Acesulfame-K, a high-intensity sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar and characterized by a fast-acting impact sweetness and synergistic properties with other non-nutritive and nutritive sweeteners, is marketed under the name Sunett® by Nutrinova Inc., 285 Davidson Ave., Ste. 102, Somerset, NJ 08873 (phone 732-271-7220; fax 732-271- 7235; www.nutrinova.com).
The sweet taste of the chemical compound was first discovered in 1967. Since then, a comprehensive safety evaluation program confirmed its safety and acesulfame-K has been approved for use in a wide range of products. As I pointed out in last month’s Ingredients section, the company’s development and promotion of the Sunett® multisweetener concept over the years was an especially important event in the history of this sweetener as well as in the general formulation of products using other this and other sweeteners.
This concept highlighted how acesulfame-K can be combined with other nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners, delivering improved taste and reduced calorie consumption to consumers and economic advantages to food and beverage manufacturers. Blending these different sweeteners took advantage of distinctive qualitative synergies produced—both in diet or light products and in full-sugared products.
Numerous studies have illustrated how multiple sweeteners could be used to replace sugar content in products without consumers detecting a change in taste. Application areas studied included beverages, confections, chewing gum, dairy products, table sweeteners, baked goods, and pharmaceuticals. And, of course, new studies are ongoing.
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Let’s look quickly at a few of the most recent studies:
New research, commissioned by Nutrinova, has shown that the sweetening system used in hot tea and coffee influences the overall taste profile of the drink. The study looked at nine different sweetening systems: sucrose, sucralose, and aspartame as single sweeteners, as well as two- and three-way blends with acesulfame-K—all with the equivalent sweetness of 5% sugar. An independent sensory panel tasted the sweetening systems in instant coffee and tea drinks at 60ºC. The beverages were evaluated by Qualitative Descriptive Analysis, using attributes to characterize the sweetness and flavor profile as well as the mouthfeel.
According to the study, while acesulfame-K/aspartame in a ratio of 30:70 proved to be the overall optimum blend across various flavors, acesulfame-K/sucralose showed excellent potential, producing a good tea or roasted coffee flavor, as well as remaining stable in hot beverages with a higher pH value. An acesulfame-K/saccharin/cyclamate blend improves smooth coffee flavor, whereas acesulfame-K/aspartame/neohesperidin dihydrochalcone enhances tea flavor attributes. In fact, certain sweetener blends deliver an even more intensive tea flavor than sucrose.
“The results of the study have confirmed what we have long suspected,” said a company representative. “Namely, that by manipulating the sweetener combination in tea or coffee, the flavor significantly changes, so different top notes can be pronounced. This has opened up exciting new product development and positioning opportunities. We are now able to recommend the optimum sweetener blend for manufacturers’ individual applications to create a taste profile that is unique to each one.”
In a previous study, sensory research confirmed that carbonated beverages remain stable for more than 24 weeks when sweetened with Sunett blends rather than single sweeteners. Conducted by Nutrinova, the study evaluated blends of acesulfame-K with aspartame and sucralose in carbonated lemon-lime drinks over a six-month storage period.
The study found that while all sweetening systems behaved similarly at 4–8 weeks, after longer storage periods the acesulfame-K blends outperformed other sweetening systems. After 24 weeks the aspartame-only beverage became less sweet, exhibiting a more artificially sweet taste and aftertaste. In contrast, the sweetness of the 30:70 acesulfame-K/aspartame beverage remained close to that of the sucrose control, so the quality and taste of the drink were maintained. This is because in the aspartame-only beverage 50% of the aspartame degraded during storage, but blending aspartame with acesulfame-K minimized this effect.
In the July 2002 Food Technology, a feature article, “Optimizing Sweetener Blends for Low-Calorie Beverages,” looked at how blends of acesulfame-K and other sweeteners can be formulated to improve the sweetness, mouthfeel, and stability of low-calorie cola, fruit, and lemon-lime beverages. I recommend this article for review.
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Also, at the 2003 IFT Food Expo, the company highlighted the advances made in blending acesulfame-K with other sweeteners in regular and diet beverages. According to the company, the diet beverages showed how these blends lead to a more sugar-like sweetness profile. The regular beverages demonstrated how the blends can partially reduce calorie content without negatively impacting taste.
So what’s next regarding acesulfame-K and its role in the multisweetener concept?
First, the concept continues to reinforce the functionality of acesulfame-K. For example, its stability can help offset the weaknesses of less-stable sweeteners in the formulation, or it can help compensate for a lack of impact sweetness by other less-sweet ingredients.
Second, a number of sweeteners are emerging in the marketplace, including tagatose, trehalose, and neotame, and others are being resurrected, such as saccharin and cyclamate, making possible new combinations of sweeteners. This further strengthens the multisweetener concept and creates additional opportunities for a number of alternatives, especially acesulfame-K, in the sweetener market.
Third, with the current emphasis on nutraceutical products, it is possible that we might see (or already have seen) the concept extended to include health-promoting properties. This may be done in several ways. The sweetener or sweeteners in the formulation may have an inherent health benefit, such as a prebiotic effect, a low glycemic response, a noncariogenic effect, or reduced calories. Or ingredients that have a nutritional or nutraceutical effect, such as calcium, fiber, or healthy fats and oils, may be integrated into the sweetener concept to provide additional health value. Or the ingredient’s functionality benefit, such as added stability or compatibility with other flavors and ingredients, can help improve the flavor, texture, or appearance of the product, making it more desirable. This may play an especially important role in the reformulating of foods in response to the rising obesity problem.
Whatever approach is taken, in all likelihood we’ll be seeing the multisweetener concept extended to include health trends as well as respond (proactively or after the fact) to low-carbohydrate emphases which may tend to simplify the overall health picture.
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Trehalose, a naturally occurring disaccharide which is about 45% as sweet as sucrose, is available from Cargill, P.O. Box 5622, Minneapolis, MN 55440 (phone 800-742-8790; fax 952-742-7440; www.cargill.com). Under an agreement with Japan-based Hayashibara Co., Ltd., the company has exclusive rights to develop and market the product (under the brand name Ascend™) for food use throughout the Americas.
Trehalose occurs naturally in mushrooms, yeast, seaweed, and lobster. Consumption of it has increased steadily in Japan since 1994, when Hayashibara developed the first commercially viable process for producing trehalose for use in manufacturing prepared foods. It received GRAS status in the U.S. in 2000, clearing the way for its use in a number of formulations.
Containing two glucose molecules bound in an α, α-1,1 linkage, the ingredient is a chemically stable, non-reducing sugar which has many functional characteristics. It may be used as a nutritive sweetener, coloring agent, flavor enhancer, humectant, stabilizer, texturizer, and source of energy. In particular, it has been shown to be a primary factor in stabilization of organisms during times of freezing and dessication—it can protect and preserve cell structure in foods and may aid in the freezing and thawing process of many food products by assisting in maintaining the desired texture.
In reading over the literature on trehalose, I find that the product seems to have the capabilities of a utility player (excuse the baseball parlance, for a moment, but my thoughts have been with the Chicago Cubs lately). Trehalose can play an important role at a number of positions—as a team player, it will have an impact on the final outcome of the game—but it will most likely not bat in the clean-up position. In other words, because it is only half as sweet as sucrose (while providing 4 kcal/g), trehalose probably won’t be used as the major sweetener in a formulation.
However, its properties make the product very versatile, and it may be used in beverages, confections, processed foods, dairy products, fruit products, chewing gum, and other applications. Let’s look at some of these applications, and the potential value that trehalose has in them.
• Beverages. In applications ranging from energy drinks to functional beverages, trehalose can contribute mild sweetness while helping to enhance mouthfeel. It can also be combined with other bulk sweeteners to optimize overall flavor delivery in many beverages.
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For example, at 2003 SupplySide West, Cargill highlighted a raspberry tea prototype, Bone Appetit, which was designed to promote women’s bone health. The innovative product concept contained isoflavones (AdvantaSoy™) which may help maintain healthy bones, inulin (Oliggo-Fiber™) which may help boost calcium absorption, and calcium. Such a prototype could also take advantage of a sweetener such as trehalose because of its mild sweetness and ability to work with other sweeteners—a good example of its role as a “utility player.”
Furthermore, as an emerging ingredient in the U.S., trehalose could find a variety of other such opportunities. At IFT Food Expos, Cargill has highlighted a number of prototypes demonstrating the functionality of the sweetener. These have included a fitness water, and two lemon-lime energy drinks.
• Confections. Incorporating trehalose as part of the sweetener system to reduce sweetness intensity can enhance the overall flavor profile of a variety of confectionery products, including caramels and toffees, chocolate systems, flavored fondants and cremes, fudge, and hard candies. Because of its high thermal stability, the ingredient can also reduce off-flavors such as intense caramel or other browned notes. Trehalose is extremely stable to acid hydrolysis, and so is especially suitable for use in hard candies containing citric, malic, or tartaric acid. It also provides crystallization control in glassy confections.
• Processed foods. The acid stability, non-reducing character, and low sweetness of trehalose allows processed fruits and vegetables to maintain their natural color and flavor. The replacement of reducing sugars with trehalose can help extend the shelf life of any processed food where browning contributes to color change and flavor loss. Furthermore, because of its ability to protect proteins and other substances from the effects of freezing and dessication, trehalose may help maintain the texture, flavor, and color of frozen foods.
• Dairy products. The flavor profile of heat-treated and sweetened dairy products can be improved by the addition of the ingredient. Off-flavors can be minimized in pasteurized dairy-based dessert toppings, pasteurized or aseptic puddings, and pasteurized yogurts. In dairy-based powdered flavors, the non-hygroscopic nature of trehalose limits moisture sensitivity and product clumping while imparting a mild, sweet, rounded flavor.
• Chewing gum. Trehalose can be used in chewing gum to modify sweetness and extend overall flavor release. The sweet flavor of the ingredient persists slightly longer than sucrose, and its lower solubility allows for an extended sweet taste. The sweet taste profile is directly related to the overall flavor profile of the chewing gum. The longer the sweetness is extended, the longer the flavor system is perceived. In addition, trehalose is stable at high humidity and temperature.
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Neotame, the newest FDA-approved sweetener in the U.S., was developed by the The NutraSweet Co., 200 World Trade Center, Merchandise Mart, Ste. 936, Chicago, IL 60654 (phone 800-323-5321; fax 312-873-5050; www.neotame.com). It is derived from and is structurally similar to aspartame, but is 30–60 times sweeter than aspartame, depending on the sweetness required in various food or beverage matrices.
The zero-calorie, non-nutritive sweetener and flavor enhancer is 7,000–13,000 times sweeter than sugar, is said not to have undesirable taste characteristics, and may be used in a wide variety of foods and beverages, including beverages, tabletop sweeteners, frozen desserts, candy, chewing gum, bakery products, toppings and fillings, and cereal. Neotame does not require special labeling for phenylketonuria and does not degrade to a diketopiperazine.
According to the manufacturer, neotame is rapidly metabolized, completely eliminated, and does not accumulate in the body. The major metabolic pathway is hydrolysis of the methyl ester by esterases that are present throughout the body, which yields de-esterified neotame and methanol. Because only very small amounts of neotame are needed to sweeten foods, the amount of methanol derived from neotame is very small relative to that derived from common foods, such as fruit and vegetable juices. Peptidases, which would typically break the peptide bond between the aspartic acid and phenylalanine moieties, are essentially blocked by the presence of the 3,3-dimethylbutyl moiety, thus reducing the availability of phenylalanine.
In the July 2002 issue of Food Technology, a feature article, “Neotame: The Next-Generation Sweetener,” discussed its chemical and physical characteristics, stability, sweetness, taste profile, and flavor modification and enhancement. Food applications, delivery forms and benefits, and safety and regulatory status were also covered. I recommend reviewing this article.
Neotame can be blended with other sweeteners, creating new opportunities for synergy and its benefits. For example, blending neotame with sugar allows significant calorie reduction in products compared to sugar alone without compromising taste.
Sweetener Solutions, 18717 SE Federal Hwy., Tequesta, FL 33469 (phone 561-745-9995), a strategic partner of The NutraSweet Co., offers a number of value-added nutritive and high-intensity sweetener blends made with neotame. Marketed under the name SucraSweet™, these blends of a number of benefits, including significant reduction in sweetener costs, fewer carbohydrates, fewer calories, enhanced flavor, and ease of use. These blends are available in liquid and dry versions.
Dry blends are described as blends of granulated sugars and NeoCrystals™ (a combined crystal granular product containing 99% sugar and 1% neotame). All products are custom blended for specific applications.
Liquid blends are enhanced liquid sucrose, invert, and HFCS blends containing neotame, which have 20–30% more sweetener equivalency at significantly reduced costs.
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Probably the biggest development related to aspartame is the continuing endorsement of the sweetener’s food safety. In December 2002, the food safety authority in Europe, the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) of the European Commission, reconfirmed aspartame’s safety following a comprehensive review.
The latest SCF report is the result of an exhaustive evaluation of hundreds of articles related to aspartame’s safety that have been published in the scientific literature since 1988. After SCF published its comprehensive review, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency announced its support of the review. The French Food Safety Agency recently reported a two-year study by the French Expert Committee on Flavourings, Food Additives, and Processing Aids, and has confirmed the safety of aspartame once again.
The good news, of course, is that all these international regulatory decisions will certainly not do anything to impede the use of this sweetener in a variety of formulations. However, it again should be noted that the other sweeteners discussed in this article did not have to defend themselves over and over again to the level that aspartame had to. Hopefully, with all these regulatory affirmations going on throughout the world, the dust will finally settle, and when talking about new developments, we can look away from the regulatory—as well as the actions of activists that forced the sweetener to be reexamined—and focus instead on the benefits of the sweetener, particularly its use in sweetener blends where synergy only enhances—not detracts from—the functionality properties of this sweetener.
Inulin and Oligofructose
Inulin and oligofructose are soluble dietary fibers derived from chicory root. In recent years, these ingredients have been promoted for their health benefits, including providing fiber enrichment, improved health via prebiotics, and calcium absorption. However, other properties that they have shown indicate that they may play an increasingly important role in the area of sweeteners, making them suitable for use in the formulation of sugar-reduced foods and beverages.
Pure oligofructose is slightly sweet without any aftertaste or off-flavor, and its sweetness profile is comparable to that of sucrose. In particular, both inulin and oligofructose can be combined easily with intense sweeteners to provide synergy—the resulting mixture has a sweetening profile resembling that of sugar and an improved taste. This synergistic effect is used especially in industrial fruit preparations.
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Several prototypes demonstrating the functionality of these ingredients, including inulin (Raftiline), oligofructose (Raftilose), and oligofructose for increasing calcium absorption (Raftilose Synergy 1) were highlighted at the 2003 IFT Food Expo by Orafti Active Food Ingredients, 101 Lindenwood Dr., Malvern, PA 19355 (phone 610-889-9828; fax 610-889-9821; www.oraftius.com). For example, in nutrition bars, these ingredients reduced sugar, provided a sweet flavor, helped to maintain the bar softness, and extended shelf life. In sugar-free chocolate, inulin was said to improve the flavor, mask bitterness, reduce the cooling effects of polyols, and reduce the laxative effect of polyols.
Recently, Wilbur Chocolate, a business unit of Cargill, introduced a line of next-generation sugar-free coatings that are said to contain fewer calories, higher fiber, and higher calcium than ingredients in traditional sugar-free coatings. Among the ingredients in Cargill’s broad portfolio are inulin (Oliggo-Fiber™) and erythritol (already discussed in this article). A good guess would be that these ingredients played a role in the development of the sugar-free coatings.
Furthermore, since these coatings can be custom-formulated, it would seem likely that other sweetener combinations might be used—possibly even trehalose. Because of their different functionalities, these ingredients can be used in a variety of combinations to create new products or enhance existing applications. One likely application area would be sugar-free chocolate and sugar-free chocolate coatings—the final result offering both functionality and health advantages over previous products.
Although it does not contribute any sweetness of its own, polydextrose has functionality properties which make it suitable as an alternative to high-fructose corn syrup in applications where the goal is to reduce sugar or lower glycemic load. The ingredient, Litesse® II solution, is available from Danisco Sweeteners, 440 Saw Mill River Rd., Ardsley, NY 10502 (phone 800-255-6837; fax 914-674-6542; www.danisco.com/sweeteners).
With functionalities similar to high fructose corn syrup, the polydextrose ingredient can serve as a humectant, provide solids, decrease water activity, control crystallization, and enhance flavor and texture. In addition, it is an economical source of prebiotic fiber, has fewer calories than high fructose corn syrup, and is compatible with high-intensity sweeteners for use where sweetness is desired.
Potential applications include the replacement of high fructose corn syrup in beverages, nutrition bars, baked goods, confections, and frozen dairy products.
In addition to its use as an alternative to high fructose corn syrup, polydextrose has been shown to offer a variety of benefits with other sweeteners. For example, it can work with polyols such as lactitol to provide a further caloric reduction, can reduce a total laxative effect, and can help provide improved flavor profile and more browning in bakery products. At 2003 SupplySide West, Danisco highlighted a prototype, Caramel Pecan Turtle, which confectionery coating contained a combination of lactitol and polydextrose. In addition to replacing sugar, the ingredient combination was low glycemic, provided 1–2 kcal/g, and was high in fiber and prebiotic for digestive health.
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Sucrose and Other Nutritive Sweeteners
I would be remiss if I did not include sucrose and other nutritive sweeteners in this article. Here are a few examples of new developments in the area of nutritive sweeteners and how they may find increasing application in the formulation of foods and beverages.
• Sucrose. A growing range of cocrystallized products consisting of sucrose and other ingredients or flavors are available from Domino Specialty Ingredients, 1100 Key Hwy. E., Baltimore, MD 21230 (phone 800-446-9763; fax 410-783-9710; www.dominospecialtyingredients.com). The patented process used to make these cocrystallized ingredients have helped to address a variety of processing problems—from making honey easier to handle to providing a matrix to carry flavors and minerals.
For example, the company developed a cocrystallized sweetness inhibitor which can help reduce sweetness without modifying the carbohydrate content. The ingredient reportedly functions by inhibiting the receptor sites on the tongue, suppressing the ability to detect sweetness. This means that manufacturers can formulate—or reformulate—a product with the sugar level needed to achieve desired functionality characteristics while adjusting the sweetness level.
Using the cocrystallization process, the company has also developed tableted products that combine sucrose with cinnamon or peppermint flavors. The process transforms the sweetening formula into tiny, highly porous particles that are dry, free-flowing, and quick to mix.
• Honey. Honey is a supersaturated sugar solution with approximately 17.1% water. Fructose is the predominant sugar at 38.5%, followed by glucose at 31%. Disaccharides, trisaccharides, and oligosaccharides are present in much smaller quantities. When thinking about honey, sweetness obviously comes to mind. A quick visit to the supermarket quickly confirms this fact as we see on the shelves products ranging from honey mustard to honey barbecue sauce to salad dressings with honey. And the products keep expanding.
However, in addition to its sweetness, honey is being studied for several other important characteristics. For example, two studies presented by Michigan State University researchers at the 12th World Congress of Food Science and Technology meeting last July demonstrated that the addition of honey to food products—marinades and yogurt—may provide value-added benefits, in addition to flavor.
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Honey is commonly added to meat marinades for flavor and to aid in browning and glaze formation. In one study, researchers found that honey-containing marinades also effectively limited the production of potential cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) when marinated steak and chicken were fried. HAAs are formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures and the meat begins to char or blacken. Marinating meat for 4 hr in marinades containing 30% honey significantly reduced HAA formation.
In a second study, investigators are testing honey’s ability to support the growth of beneficial microorganisms in yogurt called probiotics. Honey’s special carbohydrate composition includes primarily monosaccharides glucose and fructose, but also about 5% oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are known to support the growth of probiotics such as Bifidobacterium bifidum, believed to aid in gastrointestinal health. When 5% honey, sucrose, and corn syrup were compared, honey enhanced the growth of B. bifidum over the other sugars. When added at 10%, honey enhanced B. bifidum growth similarly to the oligosaccharide source inulin.
For more information about these studies, contact National Honey Board, 390 Lashley St., Longmont, CO 80501-6045 (phone 303-776-2337; fax 303-776-1177; www.nhb.org).
In addition to these studies, new processes are being developed which can create novel products. For example, a new sterilization process for making honey safe for infants has been created by researchers at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The sterilization process called high-pressure throttling kills spores in honey without affecting the quality of honey.
According to the lead researcher, “The process we developed produces honey that is free of Clostridium botulinum spores, so it can be used safely in pharmaceutical products and foods designed for infants. The process uses a combination of heat and high pressure to instantaneously kill the spores. Therefore, the flavor and other physical properties of the honey remain the same as in raw honey.”
More information about this process can found in the July 2003 Ingredients section.
• Crystalline fructose. Crystalline fructose, marketed under the name Krystar®, is available from Tate and Lyle, 2200 E. Eldorado St., Decatur, IL 62525 (phone 217-421-3553; fax 217-421-3167). The ingredient is a nutritive corn sweetener which is processed from high fructose corn syrup into a pure white free-flowing crystalline material or a pure water-white syrup. Pure fructose is the sweetest of the naturally occurring carbohydrate sweeteners.
The ingredient offers a variety of benefits including flavor enhancement, improved texture and mouthfeel, synergism with other sweeteners, and humectancy. Typical formulations include powdered beverages, cereal coatings, puddings, gelatins and fruit fillings, confections, frozen foods, baked goods, intermediate-moisture foods, sports drinks, and reduced-calorie foods and beverages.
At the 2003 IFT Food Expo, the company highlighted the sweetener in a number of products, including chai tea and flavored coffee syrups.
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• Brown rice syrup. A nutritive sweetener derived from brown rice was developed by Briess Ingredients Co., P.O. Box 229, Chilton, WI 53014 (phone 920-849-7711; fax 920-849-4277; www.briess.com). Called BriesSweet™ Brown Rice Syrup, the product is available in four conversion types—28 D.E., 42 D.E., 45 High Maltose, and 60 D.E.—and can be certified organic. Potential applications include bars, granola, baked goods, breakfast cereals, functional beverages, sauces, and confections.
A few years ago, if you were writing an article about sweeteners, one of the sections probably would have discussed sweetener blends. But as you can see from this month’s Ingredients section, today it is difficult to write about any sweetener without taking into consideration the different combinations of sweeteners—nutritive and non-nutritive—that it can be used with. This is because sweetener blends can provide a variety of solutions in the areas of functionality and health.
However, I should also mention that while sweetener blends are taking the center stage in formulation, creating opportunities for a wide range of new products as well as the enhancement of existing applications, it is also true that there are other approaches that can be used to provide potential solutions in the sweetener arena.
One approach is the use of “sweetener potentiators” developed by a biotechnology company, the Linguagen Corp., 2005 Eastpark Blvd., Cranbury, NJ 08512-3515 (phone 609-860-1500; 609-860-5900; www.lingagen.com). The company is said to be developing noncaloric natural sweeteners that are indistinguishable from sugar and a sweetness-enhancing agent (referred to as a sweetness potentiator) that boosts the sweetness of natural sugars by 5–10 times. The development of sweetness potentiators work by allowing sugars to bind more tightly to taste receptors on the tongue.
The researchers are working on new ways to improve the sweet taste as well as eliminate the bitterness in some foods without using as much sugar or salt. These resulting developments can improve the flavors of sweet and salty foods that are especially consumed during the upcoming winter holidays.
The company has been able to trace the link between genes that control taste and what happens when ice cream melts on the tongue. And they recently discovered the taste receptor on the tongue that sends a message to the brain to make it interpret something as having a bitter flavor.
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According to researcher Richard McGregor, “the traditional strategy for countering bitterness—adding salt and sugar—doesn’t really stop the bitter taste at all. Instead, it distracts the brain from the bitterness by masking it with other flavors. Bitter blockers block the palate from sending the bitter message to the brain at all.” The company is also conducting research to determine if these bitter blockers will improve the taste of salt substitutes such as potassium chloride.
If successful, products such as these can offer several benefits. First, they can eliminate a bitter aftertaste which are associated with some sweeteners, making the food or beverage product more desirable to the consumer. Second, as high fructose corn syrup is one of the highest-cost components for soft drink manufacturers, these sweetness potentiators could reduce ingredient costs by billions of dollars per year. And third, by helping to fuel a market for products made with these kinds of ingredients, they can address health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, and play an important role in the reformulating of foods and beverages.
As a company representative noted about products made with sweetness potentiators, “What may be more important than the increased taste factor is that these foods will offer more healthful choices to consumers who want to be mindful of their fat and sugar intake, but who may have a distaste for previous products on the market.”
In looking at the number of ways that sweetener blends are helping to enhance existing products—as well as create new ones—I thought it might be interesting to see how sweetness is being paired with another very popular taste—saltiness.
Sweet saltiness? Salty sweetness?
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At one time, these two tastes, sweet and salty, were viewed as distinct and incompatible. Lovers of each taste sensation were placed in two very separate camps. Most likely, a consumer was either a sweet person, craving anything from confections to ice cream, or a salty person, desiring things like popcorn, pretzels, and potato chips. Of course, some individuals belonged to both camps, but they were careful not to confuse their membership cards, and very rarely did they claim to be a camp follower of both.
Not surprisingly, food manufacturers made products that fit neatly into one particular camp, and very rarely did they cross the boundaries. There were exceptions, however. One example that quickly comes to mind is honey-roasted peanuts.
With all the different flavor combinations and taste sensations out there today, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the boundaries between sweet and salty are also rapidly breaking down. One reason for this is how the different tastes—sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and let’s not forget the ever-elusive umami—are being viewed.
In truth, the eating experience has always been a combination of the basic taste sensations. But over recent years, more and more work is being done in studying how the different tastes interact with each other, so that instead of traditionally positioning taste experiences into four quadrants (with umami positioned as a separate category or satellite), we’re seeing more combinations of different tastes, whether they’re sweet and salty; sweet and sour; sweet, salty, and sour; salty and bitter; and a variety of others. The November 2004 Ingredients section will cover ingredients for all the basic tastes, and it should be an exciting—and hopefully a stimulating—article.
In particular, the interaction of salty and sweet ingredients can have an important impact on the taste of the finished product, and even help modify or create new taste sensations. For example, the level of salt can suppress bitterness so that more sweetness can come through. Or the level of sugar can reduce saltiness perception. In some applications, salt can enhance sweetness, while in other applications, it can help mask or reduce the sweetness levels. Furthermore, I suspect that new developments in ingredients, especially their use as flavor enhancers or masking agents, as well as the incorporation of new technologies, is helping to fuel these different taste combinations along.
According to the National Honey Board, Longmont, Colo., honey can modify saltiness perception and increase the acceptability of savory products. When added to 0.35% chloride solutions at a 25% level, clover, wildflower, and orange blossom honeys decreased the saltiness intensity from 50 to 18, 15, and 28, respectively. Honey added to more salty solutions (0.7%) decreased saltiness intensity from 150 to 27–45. The addition of honey can mask the high saltiness intensity of salt-cured products such as ham or bacon. It may also serve to increase the acceptability of other savory products which require high levels of salt for processing or manufacture. Product developers may also want to use these findings to adjust the levels of salt added to food products when honey is added in significant amounts.
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In an interview with Food Technology, Linda Kragt, Technical Services Manager, Morton Salt Co., Chicago, Ill., discussed the role of salt as a flavor modulator. In addition to imparting its characterizing taste, salt can reduce the intensity of off-flavors and provide increased flavor balance. Salt can suppress off-flavors such as bitter and metallic notes and blend individual flavors.
Studies conducted by the Monell Chemical Senses Center found that salt acts as a flavor modulator rather than a flavor potentiator. Aqueous solutions showed that at supra-threshold levels, NaCl supresses basic tastes: sweet, sour, and bitter. This suppression of tastes may result in an increase in perceived intensity of other tastes or flavors. For example, salt may increase the sweetness of some foods such as fresh apples or melons. Before the salt is added, the bitter or sour notes are actually depressing sweetness. When salt is added, it suppresses the bitterness, which allows the sweetness to come through more clearly.
Another example is chocolate. Kragt noted that low levels of salt, less than 0.1%, can suppress the bitterness of chocolate and enhance sweetness, contributing a sweeter, mild chocolate flavor that Americans prefer.
In today’s marketplace, we’re seeing a broad range of products that are combining saltiness and sweetness. Frito-Lay, Inc., Plano, Tex., recently came out with several new products demonstrating this fusion. For example, its Rold Gold Pretzels is now available in a new version, Honey Wheat Braided Twists. The product is made with enriched flour, whole wheat flour, honey, sugar, corn oil, salt, malted barley flour, and other ingredients. The company has also recently introduced new flavors to its Lay’s potato chip line, including Honey BBQ. (A new Dill Pickle flavor is also available, combining sour and salty tastes. Interestingly, if the company ever came out with a sweet dill pickle flavor, the product might combine sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Hey, just a thought.)
Another snack that is effectively combining sweetness with saltiness is microwave popcorn. According to Carolyn Merkel, Executive Director, Ingredient Technology, McNeil Nutritionals, New Brunswick, N.J., sucralose is being used in the formulation of microwave popcorns that can deliver sweet and salty tastes. These may include varieties of popcorn such as caramel or other sweet types. Sucralose is being used in these formulations because aspartame breaks down in the heat and sugar would cause the popcorn to char.
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In addition to the snacking area, we’ll be likely seeing the pairing of sweet and salty or sweet and savory in a variety of other applications. The 2003 McCormick Flavor Forecast, a definitive report released by McCormick & Co, Inc., Hunt Valley, Md., which predicts the flavors and trends that will shape today’s and tomorrow’s culinary climate, discusses the combining of sweet flavors such as cinnamon and vanilla with spicy and savory foods. Some examples might include scallops with a cream sauce containing vanilla, or meat with cinnamon in the seasoning or sauce. Recently, the company developed a line of grilling sauces which provide the robust flavor of a marinade with the ease of a brush-on barbecue sauce. One of the flavors introduced was a Honey Mustard which reportedly provided a touch of red pepper and citrus in a blend of sweet honey and zesty mustard for chicken or pork.
According to a representative from Nielsen-Massey, Waukegan, Ill., a supplier of premium-quality vanillas, Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla’s naturally sweet character, along with its brown, creamy topnotes, makes for a suitable accompaniment to shellfish dishes such as crabcakes. It blends easily with crabcake ingredients such as red pepper and onion, and is a nice accent to remoulade sauce, which is traditionally served with crabcake.
Sweet and salty will play a role as new twists are placed on traditional favorites. For example, at the 2003 IFT Food Expo, Cargill, Minneapolis, Minn., showcased a prototype snack: a chocolate-filled soft pretzel. Different pizza formulations are taking advantage of honey and unique toppings, including Honey Hot Buffalo Chicken Pizza, Honey Sweet and Sour Shrimp Pizza, and Sweet and Savory Cheese Steak Pizza.
I suspect, too, that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg here. Expect more products taking advantage of sweet and salty tastes to appear in the marketplace, especially when considering the emphasis on Hispanic or Asian foods, and the fusion of other cultures into the mainstream.
And although salt and sweeteners may have once been viewed as belonging to different camps, there are several other interesting similarities between them. One involves cost. Salt—for all of its numerous functionalities—is rather inexpensive. And some sweeteners, because they require smaller amounts and because they are used in combinations with others, may also not be as expensive as other alternatives. Costs can also play a role in making things happen. Second, work is being done to find alternative ways to enhance or mask flavors, and the use of salt and sweeteners may play a role here.
But perhaps more than anything else, there’s the synergy that exists between them. From some of the studies that we have looked at to the new products that is appearing in the marketplace, it seems that sweetener plus sweetener is not the only combination capable of producing the cornerstone equation 1+1 = 3. Salt plus sweetener can achieve interesting results as well.
Food formulators worth their salt will know how to use these various interactions to achieve “sweet” results in the marketplace.
Next month’s Ingredients section will look at the functionality benefits of gum systems.
by DONALD E. PSZCZOLA
Senior Associate Editor