The beverage industry is focusing on reducing the calories in soft drinks, as efforts to curb obesity are creating greater demand for products with healthier profiles. Around 1.5bn adults are now considered obese worldwide, with predictions that the figure will rise to 2.3bn by 2015.
Cargill has been making waves with its Truvia high intensity sweetener derived from stevia, which is already used in finished products in the US and France, with products on the starting blocks for launch in other EU member states once approval is granted.
But Majella de Bruijn, EMEA beverage category manager at Cargill, told FoodNavigator.com that replacing the sweetness in a product when less sugar is used is only part of the challenge to ensuring a product still tastes good: sugar also plays a role in texture and flavour.
“Within TasteWise we look at the three factors that are really important when you look at taste,” she said. “Those three factors are flavour, sweetness and mouthfeel. We bring the ingredients, the technology and also the application capabilities.”
De Bruijn explained that the flavour element of Taste Wise employs Cargill’s taste modification capabilities, based on its database of molecules that have been characterised for cell responses in the five taste modalities (sweet, bitter, salty, sour and umami). This allows flavourists to respond more quickly to formulation requirements, as they already know what combination of molecules works in each application.
Car makers’ secrets
When it comes to texture, however, Cargill is introducing a new and unique way of working, on which it has filed several patents.
It uses an approach more commonly used by the automotive industry called tribology - the science and technology of interactive surfaces in relative motion - to measure and mimic what happens inside the mouth when a beverage is consumed.
Beverage Application Center coordinator Aukje van Kooij explained that the sugar in a beverage forms a film between the tongue and the roof of the mouth, and that film is responsible for the product’s mouthfeel. Without it, a beverage feel thin and watery and the overall taste profile is affected.
Simply dealing with viscosity is too static an approach, she said. Rather, Cargill aims to provide lubricity in beverage formulations. Once it has identified the exact friction gap using tribology, it puts its blends of hydrocolloids into action to plug it.
Click on the audio file below to listen to a tasting session with Aukje van Kooij’s and FoodNavigator’s Jess Halliday.
De Bruijn said that although Cargill has only just started offering its TasteWise approach, the response so far has been positive.
“The way we approach taste is different. Feedback from customers so far is that they have been amazed.”
The main benefits of the holistic approach, she said, are that it offers a one-stop-shop for customers for ingredients, know-how and applications. They do not need to go to separate suppliers to deal with sweetness, flavour masking, and texture separately, but can deal with it all together, under one roof.
This translates into accelerate product development cycles, allowing customer to take products to market faster.
Although Cargill is using the TasteWise approach for beverage development in both the US and Europe, the regulatory situation for stevia-derived sweeteners in Europe means manufacturers must, nonetheless, wait for the European Commission’s green light. There are high hopes that this will be granted in 2011.
In the US, on the other hand, sweeteners with high purity levels of the sweetest steviol glycoside, known as Reb A (or Rebiana in Cargill’s lingo) have been FDA GRAS (generally recognised as safe) since late 2008.