With an estimated 50% of daily sugar consumption coming from beverages and processed foods, including baked goods and cereals, the pressure on food and drink manufacturers to reduce sugar in all its forms is greater than at any time before.

New York City’s proposals to introduce “sin taxes” on beverages made with sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which are both high in calories but have little nutritional value, are just one recent high-profile example of this prevailing trend. Closer to home, the European Union’s “Choices” program is a nutrition-profiling system where products earn the symbol by meeting healthy product criteria including lower sugar and calories. Finally, global prices of sucrose and HFCS continue to climb significantly, adding urgency to the search for alternatives, including natural solutions.

When formulating products with non-nutritive sweeteners, including sucralose, ace-K and aspartame, developers need to bear in mind that each type of sweetener has a specific set of taste and off-note flavor challenges. Relative adjustments to the levels of sugar, HFCS and sweeteners used in a recipe can have a significant impact on the overall flavor character and balance as well as the product’s body and mouthfeel.

Developing great tasting, healthier foods and beverages involves combining global expertise in a number of key areas: consumer understanding, science and technology, sensory analysis, flavor creation and applications development.

Givaudan has developed a deep understanding of how people taste, what makes food taste sweet and the ingredients, knowledge and artistry required to create sweetness in complex food and beverage products. Moreover, the South America-based company continues to discover and add to its ingredient-creation palette on an on-going basis.

Through its extensive TasteSolutions program, Givaudan brings its strong sensory and technical expertise to the task of understanding the individual characteristics and flavor challenges involved in applying different sweeteners, alone and in combination to a wide range of food and beverage applications.

Rather than adapting the application to suit a particular sweetener’s characteristics, the skilled R&D staffer is able to create complete solutions involving a tailored blend of sweeteners in line with a customer’s individual application requirements.

This approach enables the company to provide tailor-made solutions for reduced sugar or sugar-free beverages, dairy, cereals, baked goods and confectionery applications, without off-notes and with optimum mouthfeel and consumer-preferred flavors.

The company also is investing in new sweeteners that are entering the market, especially as natural alternatives become more widely available. The high intensity sweetener Reb-A, which received GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status in the United States in December 2008 and won French government approval last September, looks set to become a mainstream sweetener in the food and drinks industry, pending approval by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Reb-A is one of the major steviol glycosides found in the leaf of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar, is natural in origin and has no calories, making it an option for manufacturers aiming to address the market for naturally derived foods with reduced, low or no sugar.

Reb-A sweetened products often encounter significant taste problems with negative lingering off-notes of bitterness and astringency. Effectively masking these, while keeping the total flavor profile in balance, will be the key to securing consumer taste preference within the market space created by the new generation of low calorie all-natural products sweetened with Reb-A.

Givaudan’s receptor-based discovery program may provide taste innovations for Reb-A sweetened products.

Snack and bakery developers can tap into Givaudan TasteSolutions proprietary flavor and taste creation palettes, technologies and proven applications expertise to help them launch new and reformulated foods.

Givaudan’s discovery and development of new generation ingredients for sweetness solutions will provide distinctive consumer flavors with advanced technical performance. The company’s research and investment in natural sweetness, masking, body and mouthfeel will continue to ensure that the market’s requirements for consumer-preferred low- or no-calorie foods and beverages are matched with appropriate taste solutions.