Sugar Crisis: The Hunt for New Ingredients and Technologies Intensifies
The conversation around sugar and sugar substitutes has only heated up in the last few months. Be it sugar beet cultivation or aspartame’s carcinogenic connection and permissible daily usage, the debate over how this may impact the entire food and beverage sector seems unending. Consumers are constantly shifting away from high-sugar foods and beverages to lower-sugar alternatives without wanting to sacrifice the sensorial aspect (taste). To meet that demand, companies are attempting to develop new formulations and improve existing ones through the use of technology in order to gain a larger market share.
Continuous Ingredient Research and Development
There is a great deal of interest in the sugar substitute that can be obtained from plants, whether it comes from the carob fruit or a rare species of mushroom. These kinds of substitutes also have additional health benefits, such as being allergen-free, preventing cancer, treating inflammation, and boosting immunity. Biotechnology advancements that allow for the more efficient and cost-effective production of natural sugar substitutes could be a promising growth factor in the near future.
CarobWay, a food startup based in Israel, has created a clean-label sweetener made from whole carob fruit. This vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO sweetener is a great sugar substitute with a 1:1 ratio. It contains D-pinitol, a plant molecule that has a slightly sweet taste and an insulin-like impact on the body. Scientific studies have shown that D-pinitol can offer several benefits, such as regulating blood sugar levels, preventing Alzheimer’s disease, combating cancer, decreasing inflammation, and enhancing immunity and liver health. Apart from this, the soluble fibers and polyphenols found in sweeteners can also provide benefits for the stomach and heart.
MycoTechnology is a company that focuses on mushroom research and innovation. Recently, they made a groundbreaking discovery – a naturally sweet protein found in honey truffles, a rare type of mushroom. Even though it contains the same amount of calories as other proteins, its sweetness is significantly higher than that of sugar, ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 times greater. Therefore, its caloric value is negligible. The company is able to produce sweet protein in a sustainable and effective manner through its fermentation technology without the need for constant cultivation or harvesting.
The European Commission has officially approved the use and sale of innovative cellobiose, a natural and vegan sugar, produced for the first time by a German company, Savanna Ingredients’. It shares similarities with lactose but does not contain allergens. This lactose substitute has superior sensory qualities compared to others and can be a suitable replacement for lactose in foods for people with lactose intolerance. Furthermore, it prevents the degradation of bioactive ingredients such as vitamins while amplifying the taste and flavor of various formulations.
Technical Advances in Sugar Reduction
As technology advances on both the supply and demand sides, there is more room for creating sugar substitutes. The use of enzyme technology to change the sweetness of existing sugars and develop new sugar substitutes is becoming increasingly significant. One of the most common ways in which enzymes are used to develop sugar substitutes is by catalyzing the hydrolysis of starch. These sugar substitutes can then be combined to create new sweeteners with varying sweetness profiles and powerful health-promoting properties.
Symrise recently signed a minority investment agreement with Bonumose, a US-based start-up, to strengthen its sugar reduction initiatives in North America. Bonumose specializes in producing affordable sucrose alternatives using enzymes such as tagatose and allulose through its patented production technology. As obesity and diabetes rates rise and consumers become more health conscious, the company hopes to meet the demand for tasty, low-sugar products.
To produce large amounts of allulose, carbohydrates require enzymatic conversion. However, many of the natural enzymes presently available in the market are unstable and inefficient. Over the last three years, Ambrosia Bio has created a bioprocess that utilizes unique enzymes to efficiently and affordably transform low-profit feedstocks (like sugar and starch) into rare and specialized ingredients, like allulose. Thanks to its recent collaboration with Ginkgo Bioworks, Ambrosia Bio can now utilize Ginkgo Enzyme Services to manufacture its distinctive enzymes on a larger scale, allowing them to convert feedstock into allulose more efficiently.
Nestlé has introduced a new multifunctional sugar reduction technology to reduce the amount of natural sugar in ingredients such as malt, milk, and fruit juices by up to 30% without affecting the sensorial properties of the product. Additionally, this enzymatic technology increases the level of prebiotic fibers found in dairy products, which can further enhance gut health. It also reduces the need for extra sweeteners or bulking agents to compensate for the lost volume of sugar.
In a Nutshell
The food industry is reducing sugar in existing and new product formulations due to rising health concerns. In the coming years, it can be anticipated that the quantity of sugar in food items will decrease due to consumer demand and the emergence of innovative sugar substitutes as well as advanced methods.