A supplier of milk-based ingredients in 1996 Arla Food Ingredients won the worldwide rights to produce and commercialise the new tooth-friendly sweetener tagatose from inventor US firm Spherix. Terms of the recent deal with Nutrinova were not disclosed but the move will bite into Arla's share of the recently cleared market in Australia and New Zealand.
But shipping the distribution deal out will give Arla the space to concentrate on other growing markets, notably the US.
Last month the tooth-friendly ingredient - sold under the brand name Gaio tagatose - entered the Australian and New Zealand markets for the first time through the formulation of a new range of chocolate products by Miada Sports Nutrition of New Zealand. The firm introduced a line of chocolates, called Miada ChocoLite, that contain tagatose and are due to hit supermarket shelves in New Zealand and Australia in mid-2004.
"This event marks the commercial introduction of Spherix's low-calorie, low- glycaemic, and low-carb sweetener to the Pacific Rim, the first market outside the United States in making its way into the world market," said Spherix at the time.
Last week the same New Zealand firm announced plans to expand tagatose use, developing and marketing a new line of carbonated, energy and diet drinks and protein bars, flavour-enhanced with Gaio tagatose, under its product line brand named 'Whoop Ass'.
In the US tagatose continues to build on its market position through direct contact with the consumer. The Danish firm can now see its tagatose sweetener emblazoned on the packaging of a new range of juices in the US, including supermarket titan WalMart. In addition, both inventor and distributor are looking to cash in on the growing low carbohydrate fad.
With the low-carbohydrate market currently soaring in the US, Arla Food Ingredients and Spherix are expecting strong growth for their low-carb sweetener.
"It is very exciting to hear that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retail chain, will carry these new products," Thomas W. Gantt, Spherix's CEO said recently. "It reinforces our view that tagatose is on its way to becoming a major player in the sweetener market."
The Pasco Beverage company's newly launched Light & Tasty juices that contain the tooth-friendly sweetener and bear the Gaio tagatose logo will be carried by WalMart as well as other retailers. The frozen fruit juices and ready-to-drink juices come in orange juice cocktail, apple, fruit punch, and lemonade flavours. The products will be sold under each retail chain's own label.
According to Spherix, the juices combine tagatose and the high intensity sweetener sucralose, and contain 45 per cent fewer calories and up to 70 per cent fewer carbohydrates than ordinary juice.
With low carbohydrate diets booming in the US thanks to diet guru Dr.Atkins, the market holds strong opportunities for food manufacturers and ingredients firms.
"Gaio tagatose offers a natural sweetener to customers who don't want sugar in their food,"said Henrik Andersen, director, Arla Foods Ingredients.
Pushing the weight-loss advantages, Arla recently reported on a new study by Australian scientists that confirmed tagatose's low glycaemic (GI) response, an index increasingly used by dieters as a form of carbohydrate control. The GI is a numerical system of measuring how fast a food or ingredient triggers a rise in circulating blood glucose; the higher the GI, the greater the blood sugar response. A low GI food will cause a small rise in blood sugar levels, whereas a higher GI food may trigger a large increase.
"These results, well below that of competing sweeteners, may make foods and beverages with tagatose even more attractive to a weight-conscious public that increasingly embraces lowering carbohydrates to lose weight," said Dr. Gilbert V. Levin, executive officer for science at Spherix.
According to Spherix, the university stated that, compared to glucose, which had glycaemic and insulinaemic responses of 100 per cent, Gaio tagatose produced very low glycaemic and insulinaemic responses of only 3 per cent.
In October last year the European Commission gave the thumbs up to a joint venture between Danish/Swedish company Arla Foods Ingredients and German sugar giant Nordzucker, to bring tagatose to the marketplace.