The sweetener is derived from PureCircle’s ‘Stevia 3.0’ platform and comprises a blend of the company’s proprietary steviol glycosides – the company is claiming near taste parity with sugar.
Olivier Kutz, marketing manager, EMEA at PureCircle, is currently at Health Ingredients Europe in Amsterdam, where the company launched the product this week, and he spoke to BeverageDaily.com from the show floor.
“It’s a huge step forward for us, and it’s a very, very different approach. We think the category specific approach is the way forward,” he said.
'There is a challenge in dairy - we're not hiding it'
Kutz said Pure Circle had validated Sigma-D in three main dairy sub-categories: natural yogurts with no flavor and just a sugar base, fruit-based yogurts with an added fruit preparation and, lastly, sweetened dairy.
“All categories seem to be ploughing ahead pretty rapidly,” he said. “But there is a challenge in dairy, we’re not hiding it. There’s a positioning challenge." (Olivier Kutz, marketing manager, EMEA, PureCircle)
“So chocolate milks are one of the applications we used, but also something like, say, a strawberry base. So in general you’re talking about non-fermented, sweetened dairy – milkshakes, these kind of applications,” he said.
Asked about uptake of stevia in dairy drinks, Kutz said: “The focus with stevia has been very much on beverages, more recently in condiments and sauces – Heinz Tomato Ketchup, for instance, with a 50% sugar reduction in the UK – this product replaced another reduced salt and sugar product.
“All categories seem to be ploughing ahead pretty rapidly,” he said. “But there is a challenge in dairy, we’re not hiding it. There’s a positioning challenge."
Describing himself as a “marketeer at heart”, Kutz said that historically dairy manufacturers had communicated on fat content, but very little on calories from sugar.
“But communicating on calories from sugar in dairy starts confusing the consumer a bit – for instance, we have a product where we cut 60% of sugar to achieve a 30% calorie reduction in the final product,” he told this website.
How to bring stevia to life on pack - advertize your calorie count!
“What I advise customers to do is advertise the total calorie count on pack – Chobani Simply 100 is a simple, plain way to do. Stevia comes to life here – you can bank on the natural origin of stevia too. It’s a simple message from a marketing perspective, one I’d suggest to customers,” Kutz said.
He explained that the ‘coating effect’ of dairy products could lead to lingering effects when straight Rebaudioside A was used, but that Sigma-D was designed to address these issues.
He said the sweetener can also shorten new product development times by about 50-60%: “The final formulation can still be optimized and it would be – in flavored milks you have strawberry, chocolate, caramel – all these flavors that react differently, so you still need to tweak it a bit.”
PureCircle said yesterday many manufacturers now see mid-calories products with natural origin sweeteners as a real area of opportunity, and it claims Sigma-D suits acidified or sweet dairy products better than other stevia-based sweeteners that work well in carbonated soft drinks, for instance.
John Martin, PureCircle’s global director of Technical Development and Innovation, said: “By understanding the sensory contribution of the different glycosides and how they interact in different product matrixes we can help select the best solution for the formulation goal.”