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Start-up ‘surprised and pleased’ by reaction to novel natural sweetener from oats

By Elaine Watson , 01-Mar-2012

Industry reaction to a novel natural sweetener from oats has been extremely encouraging, says a start-up firm dedicated to bringing it to market.

Oat Tech president Rick Williams was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA ahead of next week’s Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, where OatSweet will have its official launch.

He added: “It’s pretty unusual. As far as I am aware we are the first to make a sweetener from oats. I’m aware that PepsiCo has been looking at this but they haven’t commercialized anything yet.

“The challenge is removing the components of oats that give it a grainy or oatmeal-type flavor, but we’ve got a product that is sweet, fresh and clean-tasting – but also delivers on performance and functionality.

“We have got a 42DE and a 60DE product[42% as sweet as dextrose; 60% as sweet as dextrose]but we can also vary the sweetness to meet requirements. We’ve done a lot of application work on bars, ready to eat cereals, baked goods and beverages and think it has a really broad scope.”

Product to debut at Expo West

Samples of the sweetener, which is currently available in a liquid (syrup) form, but may in future be available in powder form as well, are being tested by a range of manufacturers in everything from bars to ready-to-eat cereals -where it replaces corn syrup - non-dairy ice cream, candies and desserts, said Williams.

“It could be launched on the retail market down the road but our focus now is on supplying it as an industrial ingredient.

“We are talking to some manufacturers directly and others via brokers and third parties, but in general, the response has been really positive. We’ve been very pleased and somewhat surprised by the reaction. We weren’t planning to launch it until Expo West but we’ve already started generating some business.”

Non-GM, all-natural and competitively priced with brown rice syrup, Oatsweet also contains“protein and fiber and natural oat lipids”,said Williams.

“It is also very easy to use. You can do a straight replacement with brown rice syrup, for example. We’ve alsodeveloped a caramelized version.”

OatSweet will be marketed as more cost-effective than cane sugar, honey, or stevia, without the negative associations of high-fructose corn syrup, and with flavor and texture characteristics that improve upon agave and rice syrups, he said.

Patent protection

The technology behind OatSweet, which was developed by Oat Tech founder Dr Paul Whalan, is protected by US patent #6,685,974 with additional patents pending, said Williams.

“Years of research have gone into this.”

According to the patent, ‘Process for preparing an oat-based functional syrup’, the process includes milling an oat material to produce a base formulation.

It adds: “Material having a granulation of more than U.S. 100 mesh is separated from the base formulation. The base formulation is then blended with water to form a slurry.

“Effective amounts of alpha-amylase enzyme and glucoamylase enzyme are mixed into the slurry. The slurry is then cooked to convert the slurry into a syrup. The syrup is substantially flavorless.”

PepsiCo natural oat sweetener patent

According to a patent application filed by PepsiCo at the European Patent Office, its Quaker Oats division has also developed a method of modifying oats using enzymes in order to derive a potent natural sweetener.

The sweetener is “sufficiently sweet to allow it to be used as a supplement or replacement for sweeteners such as sucrose or sucrose substitutes, which are conventionally added to grain-based food products”.

Quaker is exploring a number of potential applications: “It is contemplated that the natural sweeteners can be used in oatmeal and other ready-to-eat cereals, beverages and puddings.”

Clean label

The method outlined in the application involves hydrolysing oats with an enzyme to obtain modified flour and then drying the flour to obtain a sweetener composition. Suitable raw materials include whole oat groats, oat flour, rolled oats, partially milled oats and oatmeal.

It adds: “The use of an oat- derived sweetening ingredient allows for the masking of off flavors and sweetening without the use of sugar, sucralose and acesulfame potassium or other sweetening agents that are perceived as being unhealthy.”

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