Ingredients giant Cargill showcased its Xtend Isomaltulose product at the FiE in Paris, targeting energy and sports food and beverage manufacturers with the low GI sweetener.
The company hinges its marketing for the product on its slow energy release, providing a means of avoiding rapid peaks in blood sugar levels while also achieving a sweet taste.
The product, which has GRAS approval in the US and EU novel food approval, behaves in a similar way to sugar, said the company, and is therefore suitable for a wide range of applications. However, because of its "beneficial nutritional profile," Cargill is specifically targeting manufacturers of sports drinks and energy tablets and bars.
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.
Isomaltulose, which occurs naturally in minor quantities in sugar cane and honey, has a bland taste and is half as sweet as sucrose.
Industrially produced by enzymatic conversion of sucrose, the product has good heat and acidity stability as well as low hygroscopocity (water absoption).
As well as reducing the glycemic response, Cargill's European market development manager Thomas Draguhn said Xtend Isomaltulose can also help produce a low insulinaemic response.
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.
Xtend Isomaltulose, a crystalline powder, can also be used in applications such as cereals, meal replacements, dairy drinks and yoghurts, said the company.
Another product on show at the FiE that claims to have similar properties is Palatinose sugar replacer by Palatinit.
The company, which is already selling its product in the US, said it believed its recent EU novel food approval could transform European beverage formulations.