Sweetener Systems and Sensory: Three Practical Tools

Posted on:April 4, 2019

THE MARCH TOWARD HEALTHIER reduced-sugar product formulations may break new ground in the art and science of food formulation, but it will not necessarily break new ground regarding consumers’ expectations for the sensory qualities of their food and beverage choices. Hence, a consistent sensory evaluation protocol should be an essential adjunct to any sugar- reduction project.

Judy Lindsey, General Manager of the Brisan Group, broke down such a sensory evaluation protocol into three basic elements in her presentation, “Sweetener Systems and Sensory: Three Practical Tools to Help You be More Agile.” The first is to build a proper lexicon for use as a consistent basis of comparisons. The second is to develop the proper methodologies whereby to compare sensory properties and their deviations from development targets. A third is to properly understand consumer sensory priorities. “These three elements provide the foundations for building agile sensory programs that will allow developers to obtain results faster and with greater confidence,” said Lindsey.

Why does one need a lexicon? “It is important that new product development teams share the same terminology and thereby waste less time arguing about flavor perceptions,” said Lindsey. “The same lexicon should be employed by all different levels, be it by the technical team, the sales team or the management team.” For example, descriptors, such as “metallic,” “acrid” and “bitter” can overlap, but still describe distinctly different sensory experiences. Some descriptors, such as “stale,” can refer to flavor, texture or both.

“Use the lexicon terminology from the very beginning of the project and make sure that these words are the only ones used to describe the products in question. As new sensory observations are made about a product, add them to the lexicon,” said Lindsey. “But, if additional words come up to describe already-observed sensory attributes, strike their use and revert to the original lexicon,” she added.

“Constantly revisit the lexicon and keep it simple,” emphasized Lindsey.

In response to an audience question, Lindsey also recommended that development teams establish reference samples for each term included in a lexicon for training purposes. This will provide continuity between different projects and development teams.

Once you have a lexicon, you need methods that can compare and contrast one sample against another during the product development process. This requires having a consistent and ac- curate sensory protocol readily available in order to prevent time wastage. “The methodology should be systematic, simplistic and utilized in a uniform manner, always using the same forms,” said Lindsey. Potential sensory survey tools include: 1) flash profiling; 2) Difference from Control (DOC) methodology; and 3) using a “descriptive panel flight team.”

As an example of a flash profile-evaluation form, Lindsey displayed a survey form that quantified each attribute in the company’s lexicon on a 10-point scale. Deviations from control” can be measured on a 9-point scale measuring less-than and more-than the control value. [See slide 8 of Lindsey’s presentation at].

A “descriptive flight team” refers to a small, dedicated sub-group of the company’s descriptive sensory panel who are assigned to ac- company product developers for the length of the project. “This can be done at less cost and less time than employing a full-descriptive panel along the way,” explained Lindsey.

Such are the tools of an ongoing sensory analysis program. Other “need to know” project requirements are the boundaries of consumers’ sensory expectations for products. It is important to know just how much wiggle room one has in the inevitable redesigns of product sensory profiles that accompany sugar reduction, Lindsey noted.

“For example, if one is worried about a detected ‘artificial taste,’ and it emerges that most consumers cannot perceive it, then perhaps it should not be of concern,” she explained. “Also, when consumers evaluate a reduced-sugar ice cream, do they compare it to a high- end, high-fat ice cream or do they compare it to lower-end brands?” Product developers should know the answers to such questions before they embark on a project.

Lindsey suggested that much of this consumer preference information is likely available in company marketing data, published literature or in third party research available on the internet. It always pays to do one’s sensory homework, in other words.

“Sweetener Systems and Sensory: Three Practical Tools to Help You be More Agile,” Judy Lindsey, General Manager Brisan Group

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

Tips for Reducing Sugar in Frozen Dairy Desserts

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AS WITH BAKERY PRODUCTS, sugar’s most critical role is to control the texture of frozen dairy and frozen novelty products, began Jon Hopkinson, Ph.D., a technology consultant specializing in frozen desserts, in his presentation titled “Tips for Reducing Sugar in Frozen Dairy and Novelty Products.” It does so by managing water.

Sugar plays a crucial function in both ice cream-type desserts that are frozen while stirred, and quiescently frozen desserts, which are usually frozen in molds. First, it controls the freezing and melting characteristics of these products. It also contributes sweetness, viscosity, color and secondary flavors, such as browning flavors developed during pasteurization.

Although sugar, with its multi-functional properties, plays a key role in ice cream and frozen novelties, several strategies can be used to achieve quality reduced-sugar frozen desserts.

“Sugars are the most important control variables to determine proper freezing properties of mixes during processing,” explained Hopkinson. “Freezing-point functionality must somehow be compensated for when sugars are taken out of the formula.” Shelf-life is affected by sugar’s effect on product melting point, sugar migration and freeze-thaw recrystallization properties. For example, sugars can migrate and recrystallize on the surface of ice-pops, creating little round “cancer spots” on the surface during freeze-thaw cycles.

Colligative properties like freezing point are determined by the number of molecules (particles) per fixed unit of weight. Small molecular weight ingredients, like monosaccharides, contribute more particles per gram than disaccharides, and therefore have a greater effect on freezing point depression. The molecular weight of sucrose is 342; for glucose and fructose it is 180; and for erythritol, it is 122. Thus, selecting sucrose substitutes based on their molecular weights can help control freeze-point depression.

So, what if the goal is to reduce the sugar content in a gelato, sorbet or ice cream product by 50%, asked Hopkinson? He presented some strategies, with the caveat that one should carefully check the patent literature before mapping out a product development strategy.

One can hypothetically replace some or all the sugar with sugar alcohols (e.g., sorbitol), but their negative effects on digestive wellbeing at higher concentrations merit careful consideration. Erythritol, on the other hand, does not have the digestive liabilities of sugar alcohols, noted Hopkinson. “In fact, one can get away with 1:1 substitution of sugar with erythritol while keeping sweetness constant, cost permitting. However, you may also need to add additional bulking agents in order to control the amount of water available to freeze.”

A second strategy is to replace some of the sucrose with lower- molecular weight ingredients. For example, one can use combinations of erythritol, glycerol and fructose, with a sweetness boost from high-potency sweeteners, such as acesulfame-K or natural stevia.

A third strategy for frozen dairy desserts is to remove lactose (a disaccharide) by ultra-filtration and add-back monosaccharides, such as glucose and fructose. This could be expensive, so another alternative might be to treat the milk with lactase enzyme, converting lactose to the monosaccharides, glucose and galactose. Hopkinson warned that there may be a patent issue here as well.

A fourth strategy would be to replace sugar with a fruit juice and bulking agent. However clean-sounding the juice component, this will likely require adding additional bulking agents with complex-sounding names (e.g., maltodextrin, erythritol). Under the pending nutrition labeling regulations, juice concentrates will need to be factored in as an Added Sugar on the nutrition label. “Trying to achieve an ‘all juice’ claim for a frozen dessert can be a regulatory nightmare, as most single- strength juices don’t contain enough sugar to meet processing, taste and product-quality requirements,” warned Hopkinson.

And, finally, “one can just remove a portion of the sugar from a formula and leave it at that,” concluded Hopkinson. “Quality won’t be as good, but at-least some consumers may be willing to accept the trade-off in the interest of reduced sugar and calories.” He finished his presentation by illustrating the very long and complex ingredient statements from some mainstream frozen desserts with low sucrose or no sucrose, showing that there is much room for improvement.

“Tips for Reducing Sugar in Frozen Dairy and Novelty Products,” Jon Hopkinson, Ph.D., technology consultant specializing in frozen desserts

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

Analytical Methods for Lawful Sweetener Labeling

Posted on:April 3, 2019

THE REVISED U.S. NUTRITION LABEL regulations, to be implemented in 2020, will transform the carbohydrate portion of the label by including a line for added sugars along with revised definitions of dietary fiber. The food and beverage analysis industries are far from ready to accommodate these changes, explained David Plank, Ph.D., Managing Principal, WRSS Food & Nutrition Insights and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota, in his presentation, “Analytical Methods for Walking on the Lawful Side of Sugars, Dietary Fiber and Bioactive Sweeteners.”

“The FDA stated goals behind the regulatory changes are both to increase nutrition label transparency for consumers and to improve the health of the U.S. population via weight maintenance and a reduction in cardiovascular disease risks through reduced sugar consumption,” said Plank. The FDA’s goal for dietary fibers is transparency in order to erase the concept of “fake fiber” from nutrition labels. The objective now is to increase the consumption of “whole-grain, whole-food” fibers.

In regard to American food and beverage companies, the incentives are not just to avoid the wrath of the FDA for regulatory non-compliance, but also to avoid class-action lawsuits that will be brought whenever plaintiffs believe that they can demonstrate that food and beverage manufacturers have misled the “average” consumer. “Lawyers and consumers are always looking for a pay- day because they know that, in most cases, class-action lawsuits never go to trial but are settled out of court,” said Plank.

One of the potential warning signs should be if a formulation or label claim goes counter to the intent of the regulation, said Plank. He cited, as an example, a company adding a resistant starch to increase a product’s dietary fiber nutrition label declaration while also adding an amylase enzyme to digest the dietary fiber into glucose in order to increase sweetness. “Technically, it may be compliant with the letter of the regulations, but you will have violated the intent,” said Plank.

Plank identified two essential elements of the pending nutritional labeling regulations. The first element is that the label requires that all added mono- and disaccharides must be listed as “Added Sugars,” whether digestible or not. Thus, allulose and tagatose, which each contribute zero calories per gram, must be designated as “added sugars.”

Allulose, a monosaccharide, registers 0-0.4 Kcal/g and also inhibits” intestinal alpha-glucosidase, the enzyme that digests starch in the small intestine. Thus, not only is it non-caloric, it actually contributes the physiological benefits of a fiber through its action on reduced- starch digestion and concomitant reduced glycemic response,” said Plank. Even so, by the new regulations and existing current regulations, this physiological beneficial non-digestible carbohydrate must be labeled as added sugar, because it is a monosaccharide with less than a degree of polymerization (DP) of 3.

The second element is that none of the existing AOAC-approved dietary fiber analytical methods determine dietary fiber under the new regulations: They only measure non-digestible carbohydrates (NDC). However, when the existing AOAC-approved methods are used for determining insoluble and soluble NDCs in accordance with the new regulations, then a food manufacturer may claim zero calories per gram for the content of insoluble NDCs and 2 calories per gram for soluble NDCs on their food label—even if the NDCs do not physiologically qualify as dietary fiber. So, the determination of NDC content by these traditional AOAC analytical methods still has a practical benefit for those food manufacturers looking to make a low-caloric content product.

There are no analytical methodologies that can determine dietary fiber or added sugar as defined by the new regulations. As a result, food manufacturers are required to keep records of their food product formulations to support their nutrition label claims. FDA allows significant flexibility in how these records are constructed but does require them to be available for audit and maintained for a minimum of two years, post production.

The food analysis industry is hustling to catch up to the pending realities and liabilities of nutritional labeling compliance in 2020. They still have a long way to go.

“Analytical Methods for Walking on the Lawful Side of Sugars, Dietary Fiber and Bioactive Sweeteners,” David Plank, Ph.D., Managing Principal, WRSS Food & Nutrition Insights and Senior Fellow Researcher, University of Minnesota

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

Five Recommendations for Sugar-Reduced Baked Products

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HOW DOES ONE REDUCE THE SUGAR content of products defined by their sugar content? Melanie Goulson, MSc, General Manager, Merlin Development and Adjunct Professor, St. Catherine University, provided some potential solutions to this dilemma in her presentation, “Five Tips for Reducing Sugars in Bars and Baked Goods.” Goulson began by noting that the chocolate-chip cookie, an American bakery icon, contains 11g of sugar per 33g serving. “We can see that baked products and cereal and protein bars that we know and love generally consist of about one-third sugar. Endeavoring to replace that sugar represents a monumental task.”

Monumental, perhaps, but for the baking industry, such a task may be a defensive necessity. The challenge is that sugar contributes not just sweetness, but also bulking, functionality, yeast food, flavor, color, solubility, preservation, texture and viscosity to baked products. Then there are additional criteria to be met, such as meeting marketing goals regarding sugar-type content, clean labels and extended shelf life.

Goulson laid out a systematic approach to sugar reduction with five recommendations: The first is to “intimately familiarize oneself with the properties of all non-nutritive sweetener candidates.” These include bulking agents, such as erythritol, maltitol or allulose, typically used as a 1:1 replacement for sugar; and high-potency sweeteners, such as heat-stable sucralose or acesulfame-K and natural stevia or monk fruit-derived sweeteners, which are used at very low parts per million levels.

The second recommendation is to use sweetener blends. “Blending allows one to maximize sweetness, mitigate off- flavors; improve the temporal dynamics of sweet-taste perception; and leverage sweetness synergies.” Also, importantly, she strongly recommended that product developers “take every gram of sugar that you can get. If marketing is willing to accept one or two grams of sugar on the label, take it and run.” Even a very small amount of sucrose can speed up sweetness onset and round out the taste profile.

The third recommendation is to become intimately acquainted with all available bulking agents. Caloric bulking agents include maltodextrin, proteins, sucromalt and isomaltulose, for example. Low and no-calorie bulking agents may consist of sugar alcohols (e.g., maltitol and erythritol); fiber and fiber syrups (e.g., inulin, tapioca fiber); and resistant maltodextrin.

“In my own experience, I have observed very good results using chicory root fiber and erythritol for bulking (to achieve) 50%-or-greater sucrose reductions in cupcakes or cookies. A blend of inulin and erythritol combined with stevia glycosides can develop a nice, natural-label sugar replacement system.” Blends of polydextrose, acesulfame-k and sucralose can often be cost-effective, and sometimes, maltitol alone can be sufficient for bulking and sweetening in baked goods, “as long as browning is not a strict requirement,” Goulson added.
The fourth recommendation is to carefully manage texture, “which is critical to consumer acceptability,” explained Goulson.

Sugar plays many roles in texture. It can be important for aeration during mixing (cakes); for tenderization; and for controlling the rate of gluten formation. Other steps one can do to offset the textural impact of sugar reduction are to use flour with less protein; increase fat content (to prevent full gluten development); use emulsifiers (lecithin, egg yolk); reduce mixing; and manage moisture with soluble fiber, glycerol and other small molecular-weight ingredients.

As a fifth recommendation—regarding cereal and protein bars in particular, Goulson professed great satisfaction with using dietary fiber syrups, such as inulin, tapioca and corn syrups. She recommended paying close attention to the molecular chain lengths of the syrups and to be aware of potential digestive tolerance issues.

Can such products ever hope to meet consumer expectations? “It’s a steep challenge to replace 100% of the sugar in baked goods and bars and fully duplicate a full-sugar version,” Goulson replied. “But by using ingredient systems to replace all of the taste and functionality of sugar, you can make very good products.”

“Five Tips for Reducing Sugars in Bars and Baked Goods,” Melanie Goulson, MSc, General Manager, Merlin Development and Adjunct Professor, St. Catherine University

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

Food Technology, Neuroscience & 3rd Generation Stevia Extracts

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IN HIS PRESENTATION “3rd Generation Stevia Extracts: Neuroscience, Ingredient Technologies and Food Applications,” Alex Woo, Ph.D., CEO & Founder, W2O Food Innovation, emphasized that “improved steviol glycosides technologies beget better sweetener strategies.” In speaking about the chemistry and application of high-potency sweetener ingredients for foods and beverages, Woo pointed out in his characteristic trademark clarity and wit, that the big drive today is to develop “natural” sources for high-potency sweeteners that offer superior performance.

Factors that affect the function of various steviol glycosides include purity and chemical structure, which affect taste, solubility and sweetness intensity. “Natural stevia leaf contains anywhere from 40 to 70 identified steviol glycosides,” said Woo, “of which 11 have thus far been food-approved.” Each of the 11 may bind to different locations within the Venus Fly Trap part of the sweet- taste receptor, which “helps explain why they all taste different from one another.” It also explains why they can also taste better together in unique combinations.

Steviol glycosides (i.e., stevioside and rebaudiosides) consist of a central “steviol” alcohol ring structure to which multiple and different types of sugars are attached. These sugar side chains determine the taste and solubility properties of the different steviol glycosides—the more soluble the molecule, the more rapid the sweetness onset and clearance.

Highly water-soluble erythritol has quick onset which, together with steviol glycosides’ slow onset, delivers an overall sugar-like quick sweetness onset perception. An osmolyte, such as table salt, decreases steviol glycosides’ sweetness lingering via osmotic pressure change, said Woo.

Rebaudioside A (REBA), the most common steviol glycoside in commercial use, consists of four glucose units and is about 200x sweeter than sucrose. Its available purity in the marketplace ranges from 40% (REBA40) to 100%

Second-generation stevia is all about REBA. The higher the purity, the better the taste. However, REBA itself at high usage is still bitter, because it triggers two out of the 25 bitterness receptors: TAS2R4 and TAS2R14. REBB, with one less glucose side chain, is less sweet but also less bitter than REBA. Combinations of A and B have complementary (but not proven synergistic) effects on sweetness. At the far end of spectrum is “the famous REBM, the biggest steviol glycoside,” with six attached glucose units. “It is the best-tasting and the sweetest of the steviol glycosides, so far,” explained Woo. Farm-based third- generation stevia extracts are the newer 2-way and 3-way blends of REBA, B, C, D and/or M for even more sugar-like taste but at higher cost, he added.

How can steviol glycosides be improved? One approach underway is to breed stevia varieties with elevated levels of REBM (for the optimum profile) or REBC (for increased sweetness). Another is to use “natural” enzymatic glycosylation (“bioconversion”) of REBA to generate REBM. A third approach is to use “natural” microbial fermentation to convert corn glucose or sugarcane sucrose to REBM. Fermentation and bioconversion-based stevia already co-exist with farm-based stevia in 2018. “The acceptable cost of high-potency sweeteners will vary according to their application and consumer expectations,” said Woo. He presented a matrix that cross-compares different stevia purity and moiety combinations whereby to achieve acceptable cost benchmarks, depending upon the food and beverage applications.

Another factor is the use of flavor compounds to enhance the performance of high-potency sweeteners. Woo explained how enzymatic glycosylation of REBA can be used to transform stevia extract into a sweetness-enhancing natural flavor with modifying properties (FMP) called glucosyl steviol glycosides (GSG). Using a GSG FEMA 4728 at up to 175ppm in a beverage would qualify it as a flavor, according to Flavor Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) criteria. Native stevia extracts, such as REBA60 and REBA80, also qualify as natural flavors, when used below 30ppm and 35ppm, respectively.

Woo is a big advocate of using stacking strategies to achieve desirable sweetness profiles. Stacking is a sugar-reduction strategy for building up to the required sweetness intensity and profile, while staying below the off-flavor thresholds for all the plant-based ingredients used.

“Here is how one can achieve a targeted 12% sucrose equivalence of sweetness (12˚Brix) for a beverage,” said Woo. Referring to the cost matrix provided earlier in the presentation, Woo started with 300ppm of an optimized steviol glycoside blend designed for sugar free to achieve 7˚– 8˚Brix. Adding 100ppm of a high-purity mogroside from monk fruit, such as Mogrosides-V 55%, and either 1% erythritol or 2% allulose (both can be labeled as natural flavor below their FEMA limits) added another 2˚ Brix.

Also, mentioned Woo, one can use all five senses to enhance sweetness perceptions, including product packaging or immediate environmental smell, sight, sound and touch. “Together, these cross- modal interactions allow one to arrive at the final goal of 12˚Brix or even higher,” said Woo.

Thus, strategy combined with technology may yet provide the solution to using high-potency sweeteners at optimum sensory performance and cost.

“3rd Generation Stevia Extracts: Neuroscience, Ingredient” Technologies and Food Applications,” Alex Woo, Ph.D., CEO & Founder, W2O Food Innovation

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

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