Nutritional Outlook

Nutritional Outlook, May 2018

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18 Sweeteners ■ NUTRITIONAL OUTLOOK MAY 2018 How will suppliers increase the supply of in-demand glycosides like Reb M and Reb D? BY JENNIFER GREBOW, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF S tevia (Stevia rebaudiana) has made great global strides in just a decade as a zero-calorie food and bever- age sweetener. In March, stevia supplier PureCircle (Chicago), together with mar- ket researcher Mintel, reported that the worldwide number of foods and beverages launched with stevia grew by more than 10% in 2017 over 2016, with 3500 such prod- ucts launched in 2017 alone. Overall, they estimated, stevia is now present in more than 16,000 food and beverage products across the globe. Also, as stevia use grows, this plant-based sweetener is taking market share from other high-intensity, low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium. In 2017, Mintel said, stevia was more widely used than aspar- tame in foods and beverages containing high-intensity sweeteners. T e drive toward stevia is the direct result of growing global concerns about obesity and diabetes prevalence, and a subsequent ef ort to reduce sugar consumption among con- sumers young and old. Mintel noted that the number of stevia-containing food and bever- ages launched specif cally for young children grew a whopping 16% between 2016 and 2017. Whether it's in beverages, snacks, dairy products, or confectionery, the opportuni- ties for stevia are ripe—and ripening further as suppliers improve the taste of their stevia ingredients. Some suppliers are now working on pro- ducing greater quantities of the stevia leaf 's minor steviol glycosides, like rebaudiosides M and D, which are said to taste more sugar-like compared to the more common steviol glycoside rebaudioside A. (Some Reb A sweeteners are said to have a bitter, or licorice-like, aftertaste.) Unfortunately, minor glycosides like Reb M and Reb D are still in smaller supply com- pared to a major glycoside like Reb A. T is is chief y because there is a much smaller quantity of these minor glycosides in the ste- via leaf compared to a glycoside like Reb A. For suppliers, the question right now is how best to increase access to glycosides like Reb M and D. Some believe the answer is still rooted in stevia leaf extraction—namely, gradually breeding stevia leaves that yield higher percentages of the minor glycosides. (As discussed later, some companies are also further enzymatically treating their stevia leaf extracts to improve taste.) T is kind of plant breeding takes time, however, and, as one can imagine, signif cant scale-up of these glycosides within the leaf can take years, often decades, to achieve. On the other hand, one company, Cargill (Minneapolis), has f nally come to market with a stevia ingredient it's been develop- ing for years—one that does not involve traditional leaf extraction at all. Dubbed EverSweet, this Reb M and Reb D sweet- ener is produced using fermentation. (Car- gill worked with fermentation ingredient specialist Evolva in Reinach, Switzerland, to produce EverSweet.) While EverSweet is not extracted from the stevia leaf, that is exactly the point, the companies would say. EverSweet's Reb M and Reb D glycosides can be produced through fermentation alone (in fermentation tanks), meaning one does not have to rely on plant breeding, agricultural farming, or on land and water use to make it. Opinions remain mixed on the best way to scale up production of Reb M and Reb D. For instance, the companies that remain committed to the notion of leaf-based stevia say that adhering to leaf-based extraction, as opposed to fermentation, is key to preserving stevia's biggest selling point: the fact that it is a natural, zero-calorie plant-based sweet- ener. (Other major zero-calorie sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium cannot say the same.) But, in the face of growing demand for these minor glycosides, is it truly possible, STEVIA UP SCALING

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