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PepsiCo explores natural sweetener from oats

By Elaine Watson , 26-Apr-2010

Patents filed by PepsiCo and Cargill reveal they are exploring new sources of natural sweeteners from oats and monatin, a naturally-occurring substance found in a plant grown in South Africa.

A patent search conducted by Leatherhead Food Research (LFR) during research for its new report on the global intense sweeteners market, reveals that PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats division has developed a method of modifying oats using enzymes in order to derive a potent natural sweetener.

The application shows that Quaker has developed a method of producing a natural sweetener from oats that is “sufficiently sweet to allow it to be used as a supplement or replacement for sweeteners such as sucrose or sucrose substitutes, which are conventionally added to grain-based food products”.

According to the patent application, published last year, Quaker is exploring a number of potential applications: “It is contemplated that the naturally-derived self-sweetened compositions ... can be used in a number of food products and beverages.

"For example, it is contemplated that the natural sweeteners can be used in oatmeal and other ready-to-eat cereals, beverages and puddings.”

The method outlined in the application involves hydrolysing oats with an enzyme to obtain modified flour and then drying the flour to obtain a sweetener composition. Suitable raw materials include whole oat groats, oat flour, rolled oats, partially milled oats and oatmeal.

Cargill explores new sweetener

Ingredients giant Cargill, meanwhile, has also filed an application to patent a novel sweetener comprising specific stereoisomers of monatin, a naturally occurring, high-intensity sweetener suitable for use in tabletop sweeteners as well as food and drink products.

Unlike some other intense sweeteners, monatin has no bitter metallic, acidic or astringent aftertaste, claims Cargill. It is also more stable than aspartame, has a cleaner taste than saccharin, is sweeter than sucralose and does not have the ‘liquorice’ aftertaste sometimes associated with stevia-based sweeteners, adds the firm.

Monatin is a naturally-occurring, high intensity sweetener isolated from the plant Sclerochiton ilicifolius, found in the Transvaal Region of South Africa. Monatin contains no carbohydrate or sugar, and nearly no calories, unlike sucrose or other nutritive sweeteners at equal sweetness.”

It adds: “Different stereoisomers of monatin, including the R,R and S,S stereoisomers, have potential in the sweetener industry, either as separate ingredients or in blends. Monatin, and blends of stereoisomers of monatin with other sweeteners, are thought to have superior taste characteristics and/or physical qualities, as compared to other high intensity sweeteners.

“Because of its intense sweetness, the R,R stereoisomer in particular should be economically competitive compared to other high intensity sweeteners.”

Sucralose prices drop by two-thirds

The Leatherhead report, covered in detail by our sister publication FoodNavigator-USA.com, predicts strong growth for stevia-based natural sweeteners as regulatory approvals start to come through.

It also reveals that the market price for sucralose has fallen from almost $350/kg in 2005 to just $100/kg today, with further price drops predicted as the market becomes more crowded.

By value, aspartame is the clear market leader with an estimated 44% of the global intense sweeteners market, ahead of sucralose (with 17% of the market), stevia (14%), acesulfame K (10%) and cyclamate (9%).

On a geographical basis, the US accounts for 58% of the market by value, compared with 22% for Europe and 19% for Asia-Pacific region, says LFR. “In 2009, the global market for intense sweeteners amounted to more than $1.49bn. Market value has risen by an estimated 21.3% compared with levels in 2007, mainly as a result of the rapid increase in demand for newer varieties of intense sweetener, most notably stevia."

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