Reb A, also known as rebaudioside A or rebiana, received generally recognized as safe (GRAS) notice from the FDA in December, at which point a host of companies joined those who had already shown interest in using the sweetener in new product development.
However, companies wishing to work with the sweetener have said the bitter or licorice-flavored aftertaste associated with Reb A stevia extract has been a problem, and flavor companies have been looking for ways to mask it without detracting from the perceived benefits of its natural status.
Comax Flavors vice president of marketing Catherine Armstrong said: “Our stevia masking product not only overcomes bitterness caused by stevia but also deflects the lingering or clinging sweetness that interferes with the enjoyment and acceptability of the finished product.”
The company said that stevia-derived sweeteners need “careful management” because they can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
Comax works directly with manufacturers that are formulating with the Reb A, and it said that it has already seen good results with sensory panels and its prototype product samples.
There has been some difference of opinion on the significance of this reported bitter aftertaste, with some of the major suppliers of high purity Reb A saying that very high purity removes this problem. However, Armstrong told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “Some people don’t have a problem with it. It’s all a matter of perception. It also depends on what application it goes in and how much you use.”
She said that so far the company has been concentrating on beverage and bakery applications, but added: “Our stevia masking technology can be customized to meet specific applications across many other segments.”
Givaudan’s stevia work
Another flavor company that has been looking at ways to deal with potential stevia flavor issues is Givaudan, which claimed last month that it had discovered the bitter taste receptors for stevia, allowing it to focus its flavor ingredients research on blocking the mechanism of these receptors.
Armstrong confirmed that Comax had benefited from this knowledge in developing its own flavor masker, but added that it is a proprietary formulation.
She explained that the stevia masking flavor is part of the company’s range of Special Effects flavors, which also includes bitter blockers, acid reduction, caffeine mask, and sweetness enhancers.
Following the GRAS notice, both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola announced that they would be launching drinks containing Reb A, and Dr Pepper Snapple came on board last week in collaboration with All Sport, announcing the first sports drink to contain the sweetener.