Brazzein - a protein from the berry of the West African plant Oubli claimed to be 2,500+ times sweeter than sucrose - could play a key role in the natural sweeteners market in future as formulators look beyond stevia, says one entrepreneur intent on commercializing it.
Loren Miles, CEO of LA-based Natur Research Ingredients, has been trying to get brazzein to market for some years and admits it’s taken longer than he originally envisaged, in part because industry attention has been on stevia.
“Everyone fell in love with stevia, and it also had a shorter timeline [to get to market], so the big players bet big on it,” he told FoodNavigator-USA this week. “But there is an aftertaste.”
Whereas “monk fruit has a juicy-fruit-type candy taste profile and stevia has a licorice aftertaste”, brazzein has more of a “sucrose-type profile that makes it easier for formulators to use”, said Miles.
And as firms explore other natural sweeteners, brazzein (from the fruit of the climbing plant Pentadiplandra brazzeana Baillon) ticks many of the right boxes, he claimed.
It’s water soluble, stable at high temperatures and across a wide pH range, has no bitter aftertaste and a taste profile closer to sucrose than other protein-based natural sweeteners such as thaumatin or monellin.
Global companies are testing samples and their response has been very positive
And as it is ultra-sweet, brazzein can be used very cost-effectively to “do the heavy lifting” in many formulations, said Miles, who is seeking a strategic partner - ideally with expertise in the sweeteners business and global reach - to help him get it to market.
“We’re dating heavily right now and there are many suitors in the mix. We want to work with someone that has relationships in place [with big food and beverage companies].”
Meanwhile, leading manufacturers like the product, he claimed: “Global companies are testing samples and their response has been very positive.”
He added: “Has this taken longer than I hoped? Yes. Am I fully committed to bringing it to market? Yes. Come hell or high water.”
The plan is to first secure self-determined GRAS status and then seek FDA’s stamp of approval (via a letter of no objection), he said, with FEMA GRAS status also desirable as brazzein can also be used as a flavor.
Biofermentation production process is more sustainable
As extracting brazzein from the berries is expensive and undesirable from a sustainability perspective, Miles has acquired the license to produce it from food grade bacteria using a patented process developed by scientists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The brazzein this produces can still be listed as brazzein on the ingredients label and is just as ‘natural’ as the original, he claimed.
"Bio-fermentation technology makes it possible, using food-grade bacteria commonly used today for many foods and beverages, to grow a large quantity of brazzein in large tank vessels in a matter of days.
"The results have proven to be highly cost effective, maintain a high level of standardization that meets or exceeds current quality control standards, and as compared to conventional farming [the process] has a fraction of the carbon footprint.”
Natur Research Ingredients Inc is a sister company to Natur Research Foods Inc, which has developed low-GI sweetening products including Natur Baker's Blend Natural Sweetener, which has 40% fewer calories than sugar.
Miles - who has 35 years’ experience in the natural products industry - owns both businesses.