Palatinit believes that recent EU novel food approval for its Palatinose product could transform European beverage formulations.
Already on the US market with self-affirmed GRAS approval, the sucrose-derived disaccharide, also known under the generic name isomaltulose, was on show at FiE in Paris in order to hook European beverage manufacturers looking to enhance the nutritional value of their finished products.
Palatint claims that the sugar replacer not only maintains sweetness. It also acts as a constant dispenser of energy - ideal for sports and nutritonal beverages that are increasingly claiming the mainstream.
Indeed, the buoyant sports drink market broke the €1 billion barrier in western Europe in 2003, with volumes up 27 per cent to 477 million litres.
Although slower than previous years, energy drinks still saw a 6.5 per cent sales increase in 2003 to 311 million litres, translating into a market value of €2.3 billion in western Europe alone, according to market analysts Zenith International.
"We have been supplying Isomalt for the past 20 years," Palatinit head of marketing Claudia Meissner told FoodNavigator. "But while this is fine for solid food applications, it is not so easy to apply polyols in beverage mixes."
According to Meissner, it is very difficult to mix polyols with sugar. "So what manufacturers have done is use high intense sweeteners that are low in calories. But if you want a product that gives you energy in even amounts, and doesn't give you those high and low peaks, you need to use something else."
This then, is the principal selling point of Palatinose. It provides not only a sweet taste, but also a means of releasing energy gradually, thus avoiding rapid peaks in blood sugar levels.
Indeed, low-glycaemic (GI) foods are set to become increasingly popular as a mounting body of evidence suggests that they can help in the management and prevention of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The glycaemic index, which ranks the impact of a food on blood sugar levels, is coming under increasing scrutiny in Europe after intense interest in the US.
Food makers are also coming under increasing pressure from government and media to tackle such health concerns.
"The US market has driven developments in low GI," said Meissner. "'Glyx', a new German term for Glycemic Index, has a great deal of supermarket appeal, and we saw consumer tastes in European going in this direction," said Meissner.
"We expect that the first product will be on the market in the first half of next year."
Palatinit says that its Palatinose product is non-hygroscopic, making it ideal in instant drinks as it does not lump and remains dispersible. In dairy products, too, Palatinose can be used as a carbohydrate because it is resistant to fermentation by the surrounding microbes and lactobacilli.
Palatinose is also applicable in weight control and 'slimming' products' Liquid meal replacements with milk, fruit or cereal as well as instant tea and specialty coffee can also be repositioned in the wellness sector with Palatinose.