People’s demand for sweetness has been evolving.
From obtaining energy from sweet food to pursuing low-calorie and unburdened sweetness and then asking for natural and pure sweetness that can restore sucrose to sugar substitutes. In the face of inseparable sweetness, balancing health and good taste and flavor experience and finding an ideal sugar substitute solution has become an urgent problem for the food and beverage industry.
The sugar substitute industry is developing rapidly, but consumers have always criticized the “artificial” sweetness and flavor experience.
- Why can’t high-intensity sweeteners replace the sweet experience brought by sucrose?
- What new requirements have been put forward for developing the sugar substitute industry due to the change in human demand for sweetness?
- Faced with the flavor gap between the new star of natural sweetener “stevia” and sucrose, how should sugar substitutes solve these problems?
In response to the above questions, Nutri Avenue invited the “New Internet Celebrity” Chat GPT for a brief chat. Perhaps we can obtain some innovative ideas for sugar replacement solutions from it.
Opportunities And Challenges Of Natural Sugar Substitutes Under The Natural Demand Of Consumers For “Sweetness”
The demand for sweetness has evolved, and the opportunity for natural sugar substitutes has risen.
Nutri Avenue: Why is sweetness so attractive to humans?
Chat GPT: In the history of human evolution, sweetness is usually associated with high-energy foods and fruits, which are necessary for human survival. Therefore, the human brain associates sweetness with energy and nutrition, making them more inclined to choose sweet foods.
In addition, the sweetness can also stimulate human taste nerves, making them feel happy and satisfied. The sugar in food can boost dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. Therefore, consuming sweet foods activates the reward system in the brain, making them feel satisfied and happy.
With the evolution and development of the human diet, the function of sweetness is not limited to providing good flavor and taste but also often exists as a memory carrier of human happiness and happiness, giving a more emotional value of positive feedback.
However, in recent years, sugar, the substance used to bring sweetness and energy to people, has become one of the key factors for the high incidence of human obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic diseases due to excessive intake and other unhealthy diets. Sugar reduction initiatives have also been proposed in the National Health Plan.
Increasingly serious health problems have made people more urgent for a low-calorie, healthy diet, and people have begun to reduce their sugar intake subconsciously. And the preference for sweetness cannot be eliminated instinctively, so the opportunities for non-nutritive sweeteners represented by sucralose and Stevia came into being.
According to statistics from Morder Intelligence, the sugar substitute market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 5.6% from 2023 to 2028. Among them, the demand for natural sweeteners such as Stevia shows stronger growth. Data show that the market size of Stevia in 2021 has reached 638.69 million US dollars. It is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 8.85% in the next five years, with the fastest growth in the Asia-Pacific region.
The advantages and limitations of the sugar replacement star “Stevia.”
As a fast-growing natural sweetener, stevioside is extracted from the leaves of a small perennial shrub, Stevia leaves, and is known as the “third sugar source in the world” after sugarcane and sugar beet. Let’s see how much Chat GPT knows about steviol glycosides:
Nutri Avenue: Compared with other sugar substitute products, what are the unique advantages of Stevia?
Steviol glycoside is a natural sugar substitute. Its unique advantages mainly include the following points.
- High sweetness
The sweetness of stevioside is very high, about 300-400 times that of sucrose, higher than other sugar substitute products such as sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt, etc.
- No calories
Steviol glycosides will not be metabolized in the human body, so there is no calorie contribution, suitable for controlling calorie intake and weight control.
Steviol glycosides can be stable under a wide range of acid and alkali conditions, will not be degraded by factors such as heating, pressure, and pH changes, and are suitable for the processing of various foods and beverages.
Compared with other sugar substitute products, stevioside is closer to the sweetness of sucrose.
- High safety
As a natural product, steviol glycoside has been widely used in many countries and is considered a safe food additive.
Pursuing naturalness, nutrition, and personalization is the main driving force for innovation in the current food industry. Steviol glycosides have advantages in high sweetness, no calories, stability, taste closer to sucrose, and high safety, and are widely used in the food and beverage industries.
Although natural sugar substitutes such as Stevia have ushered in rapid development in the industry under the general trend of sugar reduction, most consumers still do not buy it. Non-nutritive sweeteners account for a very low proportion of total sweetener consumption, less than 10%. The use of Stevia still cannot meet the expectations of practitioners. The fundamental reason is that there is still a large gap between the sweetness of SteviaStevia itself and sucrose.
Similar to high-intensity synthetic sweeteners, steviol glycosides in the existing market mainly has the following problems.
1. Unhealthy sweetness
Compared with sucrose, Stevia has an obvious bitter, metallic, and chemical taste when it is replaced by high sweetness. The slow sweetening speed, weak peak sweetness, and tongue-hanging sweetness hinder the release of the flavor of sugar-reduced beverages and greatly reduce the overall drinking experience.
2. Thin taste, separation of sweetness and aroma
Like all intense sweeteners, Stevia does not provide the body and mouthfeel of sucrose.
The aroma of beverages depends on the blessing of sweetness. When high-intensity sweeteners are used in sugar-free beverages, there are generally short aromas, low-intensity, and unreal aromas that are prone to artificial synthesis, which eventually causes the defect that the aroma is separated from the beverage itself. Stevia is no exception. At the same time, unlike the artificial sweetener sucralose, stevioside greatly influences flavor perception due to its molecular polarity, making the formulation of good taste more challenging.
Overall, stevioside has flaws such as incorrect sweetness, lack of full mouthfeel, and imbalance between aroma and sweetness. Only relying on traditional odor-masking flavors cannot fully satisfy the complex experience of multiple senses, such as sweetness, fullness, and aroma. Achieve the perfect sweetness of sucrose.
Is Stevia Unhealthy?
Stevia, a popular alternative to sugar and other artificial sweeteners, is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana plant. Currently, no evidence suggests that Stevia is unhealthy when consumed in moderation.
On the contrary, Stevia may have several potential health benefits. It is a zero-calorie sweetener and has a very low glycemic index, which means it does not make blood sugar levels spike, making it a great sweetener for people with diabetes or those who are trying to manage their blood sugar levels. Additionally, Stevia contains compounds called Steviol Glycosides, a compound known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Furthermore, Stevia has been generally recognized as safe by regulatory agencies worldwide, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, like any food or ingredient, consuming excessive amounts of Stevia may have negative effects, and a select few people may experience mild side effects such as bloating, nausea, or dizziness when consuming large amounts of Stevia.
Not all Stevia products are created equal. Some commercially available products may contain added ingredients such as sugar alcohols or other artificial sweeteners, which may have negative health effects when consumed in large amounts. Therefore, it is important to consume Stevia in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Choosing high-quality Stevia products without added ingredients is important.
Deconstructing The Essence Of “Sweet Taste Perception.”
— The pain point of sugar substitutes may be solved by “new food science.”
The food and beverage industry has shifted from high-calorie sweeteners to non-nutritive sweeteners. On the surface, the sweeteners used have changed. Still, it is the transfer of control over consumers’ brains, transforming the emotional consumption of sensual pleasure for healthy and rational long-term consumption behavior.
Then, switching from “studying the sweetener itself” to “simulating the sweetness on the tongue” to “simulating the brain’s perception of sweetness,” starting from the mechanism of human perception of sweetness, can we find a new solution?
The gap between non-nutritive sweeteners and sucrose
— Lack of “nutrition” rewards, ostentatious sweetness
EPC, the innovator of natural flavor regulators, summed up the essence of sweetness through human evolution: nutritional sweeteners represented by sugar are not only substances that produce sweetness perception, full mouthfeel, and rich and mellow flavor but also high Provider of mass heat.
Sucrose can stimulate and stimulate the brain reward circuit, increase dopamine secretion in the midbrain region, and thus produce pleasant psychological feelings. The brain produces sweetness rather than the tongue. The essence of sweetness is heat that activates the brain’s reward mechanism. The fatal injury of non-nutritive sweeteners is that they only have a sweet appearance.
Common non-nutritive sweeteners use non-caloric sweeteners to simulate sweetness. Although they can also stimulate the receptors of type II taste bud cell T1R2/T1R3 heterogeneity, they cannot provide the brain-activating reward like nutritive sweeteners mechanism of heat. In addition, nutritive sweeteners can provide a full-bodied and full-bodied taste. But existing solutions generally use thickeners to increase viscosity, which cannot provide non-nutritive sweeteners with a sucrose-like fullness. And it also cannot compensate for sucrose’s implicit taste characteristics.
In addition to the oral cavity, sweet taste receptors are also present in the human gastrointestinal tract. Sweet receptors in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulated by nutritive sweeteners, communicate to the brain to sense that the food we eat is preparing our body for calories. Non-nutritive sweeteners do not bind well to the sweet receptors in the gastrointestinal tract. The current sugar-free sweetened food and beverages leave only a thin sweet taste when they pass through the human mouth, esophagus, and stomach. And can’t make people feel the reason for “inner desire.”
Therefore, non-nutritive sweeteners such as stevioside only have the appearance of the sweetness of nutritive sweeteners, that is, sweetness, but cannot provide the function of its “energy” attribute. Using Stevia, simply relying on the cleanliness of the label and ignoring consumers’ deep-rooted evolutionary cognition of overall flavor, especially sweetness, cannot fundamentally affect consumer choice and decision-making.
Breaking through traditional taste cognition’s limitations, the sugar reduction era calls for a closed-loop new food science of “from stimulating substances to consumer memory.”
1. Break the product development logic based on bottom-up “product physical properties.”
EPC believes the sweetness of nutritive sweeteners results from brain decision-making, not just the one-way stimulation of sweet substances to the brain. When non-nutritive sweeteners such as SteviaStevia replace nutritive sweeteners such as sucrose and fructose syrup, the brain will start to have high expectations for the sweetness of sucrose from top to bottom, as well as the comparison of the slow sweetening effect of high-intensity sweeteners. When expectations cannot be met, flavor recognition will produce fuzziness and disappointment, prolong the flavor recognition time and semantic expression of flavor cognition, and ultimately reduce consumers’ preference for drinks.
Because of this, EPC conducted bottom-up sucrose sweetness simulation research based on oral processing and drew on the new research results of sweet neuroscience to develop a neural sweet flavor that can compensate for the activation of the top-down reward mechanism.
2. The sweetness of nutritional sweeteners is a whole
EPC believes that the sweetness, fullness, and sweet aroma in the sweetness perception of nutritional sweeteners are whole and cannot be separated.
New discovery of sweet sensory nerve conduction pathway: the neglected retronasal sense of smell.
The sense of smell is divided into prenasal sniffing and retronasal sniffing. Prenasal sniffing, like vision and hearing, is a remote sense for distance positioning, while retronasal sniffing, unique to human evolution, is mainly to detect the pleasantness of food. The perception thresholds of the two to the same concentration of stimuli are quite different. In perceiving food and beverages, the experience and sensory impression of the retronasal aroma is stronger than that of the prenasal aroma. The smell of durian and stinky tofu can be a good example.
Traditional neuroscience believes that the sweetness formed by non-volatile sweeteners, including the stimulation of the brain reward system, is brought about by the perception of the tongue or the tongue and the mouth. EPC’s latest research suggests that this perception should be corrected.
EPC used a 10% sucrose aqueous solution to do a nose pinch experiment, used FMRI to scan the corresponding reward areas in the brain, and recorded the comparison of the response of the brain reward area to bliss when the subjects swallowed with and without pinch their noses.
Experiments have found that when the nose is pinched and swallowed, the olfactory perception channel behind the nose is closed, and the response of the brain’s reward area is very limited. However, when the nose was not pinched, the sucrose water solution caused the subjects’ brains to respond to extremely high levels of bliss. From this, it can be proved that the retronasal sense of smell is the master switch of a human’s overall olfactory perception. As a non-volatile substance, sucrose can enter the back of the nose and significantly stimulate the brain’s reward mechanism. It is the hidden attribute of sucrose.
EPC jumped out of the bottom-up logic of traditional research on sweetness modification. Guided by his innovative new food science, he uses new channels such as oral saliva, non-sweet taste receptors, and retronasal olfactory stimulation of brain reward areas to achieve holistic modification of new ingredients, such as high-power sweeteners and plant proteins. Thus, it can play the role of the unique role of high-intensity sweeteners, new ingredients, and flavors in the era of adhesive sugar reduction.
Grasp The Overall Sweetness. Neuro-flavor Science Triggers New Inspiration.
After discovering that there is a lack of solutions that can truly reshape the sweetness of sucrose in the sugar reduction market, based on the new food science research theory and the screening of natural molecules, EPC, the world’s leading innovator of natural flavor regulators, began to divert innovation and develop a product that surpasses the existing ones. A new category with a classification system for ingredients and flavors—nervous sweet flavors.
All elements integrate the sweetness system to make up for stevia sugar’s “flawed” sweetness.
In the brain’s flavor perception recognition chain, the retronasal sense of smell affects 80% of flavor perception. EPC found through experiments that sugar, as a non-volatile substance, impacts the retronasal sense of smell, significantly stimulating the brain’s reward mechanism. Therefore, the EPC-Savalan™ series takes this as an entry point to adjust the perception of taste, smell, and touch to non-nutritive high-intensity sweeteners through natural substances that can affect the retronasal olfactory perception and oral processing performance to make up for the substitution Lack of sugar flavor.
Aiming to improve Stevia’s application defects, EPC innovated the Savalan™ flavor series products. Savalan™ series can be applied to applications such as beverages and dairy products sweetened with steviol glycosides to increase the speed of sweetening, block the sweetness of the tongue, enhance the perception of flavor peaks, reduce bitterness, herbal off-flavors, and metallic off-flavors, and enhance the full mouthfeel, thereby Harmonize the overall flavor.
In the general application (without using the EPC-Savalan™ solution), steviol glycosides can barely provide a sweetness of no more than 3% sucrose. Otherwise, there will be obvious bitterness, sweetness, and metallic off-taste. Savarin™ 200LE can strongly remove steviol glycosides’ sweetness, bitterness, and herbaceous odor, forming a clean aftertaste. Savarin 300CLC increases the speed of sweetening and enhances the mellow and full mouthfeel. As shown in the figure below, based on sweetening with 1.5% erythritol, the modification scheme of EPC-Savalan™ can help to sweeten up to 8% of the sweetness of sucrose with stevioside, achieving pleasant sweetness and flavor.
There are many successful cases and wide applications of nerve-sweet flavors.
When the general high-intensity sweeteners exceed a certain range, there will be obvious aftertaste defects. For example, the upper limit of stevioside RA without obvious aftertaste defects is generally 1% SEV (SEV, sugar equivalent value), and the upper limit of sucralose without obvious aftertaste defects is 5% SEV. Consumers are satisfied with satisfying sweet threshold is generally above 10% SEV.
In terms of reshaping the flavor experience of food lost due to sugar reduction, EPC has rich experience in product formulation. Previously, EPC proposed effective solutions to the defects of different sugar substitutes such as erythritol and sucralose.
For example, for the application scenarios of sparkling and flavored water, EPC Proust™ Concentrated Flavor can be used with sucralose and erythritol while maintaining the same or even more pleasant taste and flavor. It can significantly reduce the amount of erythritol added (from 4.0% to 1.6%), significantly reducing the use cost. By providing a full nasal aroma, this product complements the real sucrose flavor that is missing when using high-intensity sweeteners to reduce sugar. The front part enhances the mellow feeling, and the back part blocks sweetness delay, odor, etc., enhancing the fruity taste’s freshness. Masking function off-flavors of sexual components, resulting in a pleasing overall flavor profile.
In the application scenario of high-sweetness beverages, the solution proposed by EPC can also perfectly achieve the sweetness of 12% SEV without using erythritol. And when it uses natural, high-quality stevia sugar, the drink’s sweetness can be increased to more than 8% SEV, making the drink full of mouth, with pure sweetness, sweet and sour balance, and long aftertaste.
Different from the traditional idea of researching stevioside modification solutions from the tongue taste receptors, EPC comprehensively uses new food science knowledge, such as neural sweetness science and oral processing, from the interaction between stevioside and oral saliva and the brain’s effect on nutrition and in the different cognitions of non-nutritive sweeteners, the mechanism of perfect sugar-reducing sweetness is explored. A new idea is proposed for the sugar substitution scheme.
Nutri Avenue believes that with the advancement of technology and the promotion of enterprises, the perfect “sucrose flavor experience” without burden will one day be realized.
- 《Temporal sweetness and side tastes profiles of 16 sweeteners using temporal check-all-that-apply (TCATA)》, Vicki Wei Kee Tan, May Sui Mei Wee, Oliver Tomic , Ciaran G. Forde
- 《Molecular theory of sweet taste》Shallenberger RS, Acree TE.
- 《Consumer acceptance of natural sweeteners in protein beverages》，M.N. Parker, K. Lopetcharat, M.A. Drake
Source From: Foodaily