Overcoming the Challenges of Natural High-Potency Sweeteners
Thanks to their zero-calorie profile and sourcing from plants, the natural sweeteners Rebaudioside A and luo han guo (monk fruit) have hit a sweet spot with consumers and product developers alike. But using these ingredients in formulated foods and beverages presents challenges.
At a Monday morning session on Natural High-Potency Sweeteners: Challenges Associated with Taste Modulation in Food Products, three presenters described recent developments in the incorporation of these natural sweeteners in food products and how to reduce any associated negative attributes. Robert Sobel, Ph.D., Fona Intl., discussed taste masking (e.g., strong taste molecules, congruent flavors, phantom aromas) and taste blocking techniques (e.g., small molecule interactions) to modify the taste of natural high-potency sweeteners. He mentioned how the use of a proprietary phantom aroma was able to reduce the bitterness of a tangerine-flavored lozenge sweetened with Reb A.
Alexander H. Woo, Ph.D., Sweet Green Fields, discussed the formulation of a Reb A-sweetened beverage. About 1-2% Reb A can be added to beverages; bitterness becomes a problem beyond that level. The stevia-derived sweetener delivers about 50% of the sweetness level required. Lou han guo is added to increase the sweetness level, achieving a sugar sweetness equivalent of 70–90%. Adding phantom aromas such as honey, vanilla, or maple complete the sweetness profile. To achieve the desired viscosity or mouthfeel properties, formulators can add natural bulking agents such as inulin and FOS.
Sanjay Holay, NSM Research Inc., discussed a sensory analysis study of a Reb A-sweetened cereal product against a control (sugar-sweetened) cereal. While internal sensory panelists were able to match the sweetness levels between the two products, high school students were more sensitive and found major differences of sweetness, crunchiness, and bitterness between the two products. For students, the control had an overall liking score of 72% versus only 28% for the Reb-A sweetened cereal.