New horizons for stevia: Cargill unlocks additional applications for sweetener system
Packaged as a combined ingredient solution, EverSweet + ClearFlo (EC1) provides a more sugar-like experience (vs. when EverSweet is used independently) and saves manufacturers the time and energy of having to mix the two together on their own to find the optimal balance.
As a result, the combined ingredient solution is unlocking a new wave of product innovation for EverSweet where it previously had performance issues such as in beverage concentrates, said Cargill North America product line manager HIS (high intensity sweeteners Alyssa Leyva at the Natural Products Expo West Show in Anaheim, California.
Soda fountains: new territory for stevia
As a natural flavor ingredient with modifying properties (and labeled as 'natural flavor' on ingredient decks), ClearFlo pairs well with EverSweet -- a combination of Reb M and Reb D steviol glycosides -- and can eliminate lingering bitterness and improve overall sensory benefits in concentrated beverages such as energy drink shots, flavored syrups, and soda concentrates used for foodservice beverage fountains, said Leyva.
While Reb M sweeteners such as EverSweet provide the best-tasting sweetness profile, they're limited in a number of performance issues such as a lower level of maximum solubility, especially in 100% sugar replacement applications, according to Cargill.
"One of the things that’s been a challenge for stevia in the past is that you were not able to get it into concentrated solutions, so this is really opening up that space for stevia to be used," Leyva told FoodNavigator-USA, noting that the soda fountain in particular is exciting, uncharted territory for EC1.
In the case of soda fountain machines, EC1 is able to reduce the foaming of the beverage as it's being dispensed and dial up some of the characterizing flavor notes of the beverage (e.g. orange flavor in orange soda). The new sweetener solution offers improved dissolution properties and unlike in standalone Reb M sweeteners, EC1 dissolves in water at ambient temperatures with no heating required, according to Cargill.
"For beverage processing facilities without heating capabilities, this is a significant advance. Those same characteristics offer benefits to long-time stevia users, too, as the sweetener system’s near-instantaneous dissolution enables faster manufacturing times," said Cargill.
Available in commercial quantities to food and beverage manufacturers, interest in EC1 is strong, and as time goes new and improved versions of EC1 may be introduced, Leyva added.
"We’re just launching and actively sampling with customers and getting feedback."
Leyva noted that some of the more obvious choices for the use of EC1 are in beverages, but that sauces and condiments is another area of application and opportunity.
"We’ve been doing some work with EC1 in ketchup and marinara sauces that are both sweet and salty. What we’re finding is you can use EC1 and deliver both that sugar and a sodium reduction while getting really nice flavor profiles coming through," said Leyva, noting that EC1 can mask the off notes of sodium reduction ingredients such as potassium chloride.
"I also think there’s a great opportunity in nutritional products and supplements because those are products where there’s a lot of vitamins, minerals, and proteins that have challenging profiles."
EverSweet: 'We have been seeing significant growth'
"We have been seeing significant growth for the use of stevia, specifically Reb M products like EverSweet. I think it’s extremely clear that sugar reduction is here to stay and consumers are looking for products that deliver," noted Leyva.
And while the competitive landscape is tough for high intensity sweeteners, EverSweet stevia stands above the rest from a sustainability standpoint as it's created through fermentation vs. grown at scale in an agricultural setting, claimed Leyva.
"EverSweet is really outstanding in terms of the environmental footprint and really differentiating itself from the other sweeteners out there. We’re hearing from our customers that are interested in carbon footprint reduction goals who are interested in working with the more sustainable option, and that's another area where EverSweet is able to deliver."