Ingredient Snapshot: Food and beverage brands get two more tools for their sugar reduction toolkits as Conagen announced the successful scale-up production of two new high-intensity sweeteners, thaumatin I and thaumatin II. The development will expand commercial partner Sweegen’s robust sugar reduction solutions of zero-sugar natural sweeteners.
Thaumatin is a group of proteins found in the fruits of the tropical plant Thaumatococcus danielli. Each protein, thaumatin I and thaumatin II, varies slightly in sweetness profiles. Both proteins have been evaluated as 100,000 times sweeter than sugar on a molar basis and 3,000 times sweeter on a weight basis. The high sweetness factor can translate into a strategic cost-effective sugar reduction solution for brands seeking to get the most out of a natural sweetener.
The thaumatin proteins were developed from Conagen’s peptide production platform, which had previously been used for the scaled production of another peptide sweetener, brazzein.
“Conagen constantly improves its protein and peptide production platforms to generate more exciting new products,” said Casey Lippmeier, vice president of innovation at Conagen. “In this case, the platform has been leveraged to make thaumatin by several innovative approaches, but under a significantly shorter R&D timeline.”
These two new, high-purity thaumatin proteins add to Sweegen’s creative portfolio of sugar reduction solutions to help brands make low-calorie products. Brands can now explore the synergistic benefits of formulations that contain thaumatin and other products from Sweegen’s Signature Sweetener portfolio, including brazzein and stevia. This diversity of natural, high-intensity sweeteners represents the most cost-effective approach for reducing sugar in food and beverages to deliver the best tasting match for the sweetness of sugar.
The desire for natural sweeteners will drive the demand for fruit and plant-based sweeteners, such as thaumatin and stevia, respectively. The main advantages to sweetening food and beverages with thaumatin are its familiarity and acceptance by consumers and the fact that it is approved for use in products by the majority of the countries in the world.
Health-conscious consumers are generally more accepting of natural sweeteners than sugar and artificial sweeteners.
According to FMCG Gurus, Top 10 Future Trends 2030, “60% of global consumers currently believe natural sweeteners are healthier alternatives to sugar.” The trend report further stated, “Increasingly, consumers will want only products that contain real and authentic ingredients, and sweeteners will be no exception to the rule. As such, this will drive demand for sweeteners sourced directly from fruits and plants, something that the industry will respond to.”
Like most other proteins, when thaumatin proteins are consumed, they are digested into amino acids. However, because thaumatin communicates such a strong sweet taste, the levels used in most applications contribute almost no calories. It is one of the most intense sweeteners ever discovered.
Consumers increasingly expect to stock their pantries with low-to-no sugar products with food and beverages that fit into their lifestyle and diets. Thaumatin can complement a number of consumer lifestyles, such as diabetic, ketogenic, or low-to-no carbohydrate diets. These sweet proteins are low on the glycemic index.
“Thaumatin is the second announced product generated from our peptide platform, which fits well into our existing world-scale, precision fermentation infrastructure.” Lippmeier further added, “Peptides and small proteins like brazzein and thaumatin can be very difficult to make economically; however, now that we have successfully scaled multiple peptides and proteins, we are willing to collaborate with other customers to make other novel peptide products.”
Regulatory approval for thaumatin as natural sweeteners has passed in the European Union (E957), Israel, and Japan. In the United States, it is generally recognized as safe as a flavoring agent (FEMA GRAS 3732).