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Redpoint Bio discovers natural sweetness enhancer

By Jess Halliday , 23-Jun-2009
Last updated on 12-Nov-2009 at 18:50 GMT

Redpoint Bio has identified a new sweetness enhancer that could address the same market needs as new natural sweeteners launching to market at the moment.

The quest for natural, zero-calorie sweetening options has occupied the food industry in recent years, due to the development of low or no sugar foods and consumer interest in all-natural foods.

Redpoint Bio identified a component of a natural material that it says can be used to boost the sweetness provided by caloric sweeteners such as sucrose, fructose or high fructose corn syrup. This means that considerably less of the caloric sweetener could be used, and since the enhancer has zero (or near zero) calories the caloric level of the product is dramatically reduced.

Known as RP44, the component has been seen to enable 25 per cent reduction of caloric sweetener content in product prototypes.

CEO of Redpoint Bio Ray Salemme told FoodNavigator.com that the intellectual property position prevents disclosure of the origin of the enhancer, but he did say it is “a component of a material with a substantial history of human consumption”.

Large-scale production is “entirely feasible”, on a scale comparable with the other new kid in natural sweetening, stevia.

Moreover, benchmarking studies have indicated that there could be an economic advantage to using RP44 instead of the level of caloric sweetener, which Salemme said should be a big driver for big beverage companies, as many in the business are anticipating a sugar tax in the future.

Redpoint Bio is currently talking to ingredient suppliers and food and beverage companies that can bring funding on board to develop and commercialise RP44.

Salemme said he believes the sweetness enhancer to be “GRAS-able” – and the company is starting the process in advance of any commercial deal, including safety studies. While it normally takes 12-18 months to complete GRAS notification, the time to market will depend more on the commercial deal.

Clean taste

The development of another natural sweetening solution is timely given the attention paid to stevia-derived Reb A in recent months. Although RP44 is different, since it is an enhancer rather than a sweetener in its own right, it is moving into the same space as new natural sweeteners.

The company expects that the primary application to be in beverages.

“One of the key aspects is that we see enhancement effects at very high levels of nutritive sweeteners,” said Salemme, adding that a lot of high purity sweeteners “flatten out” at high levels and give off-tastes.

Indeed, this is the case with stevia sweeteners, where work is underway throughout the industry to modulate the liquorice aftertaste that can occur.

Redpoint Bio believes RP44 could also find a home in baked good like cookies, which require heat processing. Here, it could be combined with inulin or tagatose, for example, to provide the bulk and structure.

Discovery

The company set out to find a sweetness enhancer in response to the emerging demand for natural compounds. It used a computer model to illuminate the structure-activity relationships of compounds from a number of materials that had not previously been considered for this use.

The finding was “a combination of science and serendipity”.

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