Can natural liquorice extract be an effective sweetness enhancer?

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/michelangeloop
© GettyImages/michelangeloop

Related tags Vinegar

Glycyrrhizin acid, the sweet-tasting and bitter-masking component of liquorice, has been used in the pharmaceutical industry for years but remains relatively unknown among food makers. UK supplier Thew Arnott wants to change that.

It has launched Ceromag made from glycyrrhizin, the active ingredient in liquorice root.

As a sweetness enhancer, it is authorised for use in the EU as a flavouring substance, and must be listed as ‘flavouring’ on ingredient lists. 

Thew Arnott sources its liquorice from China and extracts from the roots. It does not have an E-number and is soluble in ammonia water and insoluble in glacial acetic acid, the firm said.

Nick Newman, sales representative from the company said: “The product has been used in the pharmaceutical industry for 15 years and known there but although available in the food industry, is relatively unknown.”

The supplier is targeting it for use in reduced sugar confectionery, food and beverages. It also functions as a masking agent, removing bitter aftertastes, making it ideal for use in in Seville marmalade, the firm said, where it masks the naturally bitter taste of the orange.

Available in white powder form, it also performs well at high temperatures, making it suitable for foods such as reduced-sugar fruit jams.

Careful if combining with liquorice

However, the ingredient glycyrrhizin has been associated with negative health effects in children​,​ pregnant women and unborn babies.

Publishing the findings of a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology ​earlier this year, Finnish researchers warned that glycyrrhizin acid has been shown to cause long-lasting functional damage in children if overexposed to the component prenatally, such as poor memory and lower intelligence.

“This study references natural liquorice, one part of which is glycyrrhizin, which like other ingredients such as gluten or lactose is not tolerated by some people,” ​Newman said, adding that Ceromag has undergone EFSA assessment and has been approved as a safe ingredient.

However,  he added that if it is used in a product with liquorice where the combination of these ingredients is greater than 4 g per kg, the finished product must be labelled ‘contains liquorice – people suffering from hypertension should avoid excessive consumption’.”

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