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US firm boasts next generation sweetener

By Lorraine Heller , 22-Mar-2006

Six months after its launch, a new sweetener that claims to be all-natural, low calorie, low glycemic, nutritionally fortified and fully functional has attracted "staggering" interest. FoodNavigator-USA talks to manufacturer Quantum Food Design (QFD) to find out why.

Seven years in development, Beyond Sugar is marketed as containing no sugar alcohols or synthetic chemicals, and claims to be able to replace all cane, beet and corn sugars in food and beverage products.

"You can do everything with Beyond that you can do with sucrose," said QFD president and director of business development and marketing Dr Kenneth Knopf.

According to Knopf, the secret lies in the technology. Through a patent-pending process termed Beyonding, the company uses glycosides, plant derived organic compounds that contain sugars, to obtain Beyond, a disaccharide with the same molecular formula as sucrose.

The product, which can be used to replace all sugars in applications such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, cereals, yogurts, sodas and sauces, claims to allow food companies to formulate 'healthier' goods.

"Beyond Sugar is low-calorie and also thermogenic, which means it actually burns fat in the body rather than storing it," said Knopf.

"Another key property is that it can be fortified with nutrients and bioactive ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals and omega-3 oils, without altering the taste," he added.

The company, which says its product has GRAS status for use as a nutritive sugar, is currently in negotiations with several major global firms interested in the technology and the ingredient. One company QFD is talking to is interested in introducing the product world-wide as a table-top sweetener, said Knopf.

"We have received enormous interest in the past six months, it's staggering for such a short period," he said, adding that he expects the product to appear on the market within the next 10-12 months.

Beyond Sugar claims to be 'all-natural,' a controversial claim amongst sweeteners due to the absence of a formal definition of the term from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But current FDA policy states that a food can be considered 'natural' if "nothing artificial or synthetic" has been added to it that would not normally be expected to be in that food.

Beyond is also marketed as suitable for diabetics. "It's not a diabetic product, it's just a sugar that can be eaten by diabetics as it doesn't upset the glucose in the body."

According to the company, one major advantage is that the product can be used directly in products such as baked goods without the need for a bulking agent. The current formulation of Beyond makes it as sweet as sucrose, but this ratio can be altered according to manufacturers' needs.

Indeed, Beyond Sugar is only one example of what can be obtained with the new technology, said Knopf, as the process can be used to manufacture a wide variety of sweeteners in different forms, such as powdered, granulated or spray products.

"The applications are endless and this will change the way we view sugar," he said.

QFD, which is confident that its product will take the market by storm within the next decade, says one of its priorities is to help improve consumer health and reduce global incidence of food-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Indeed, industry observers appear keen to see how the market for this new sweetener develops. According to Paula Kalamaras of liability firm Scribes Unlimited and co-author of a book on sugar and sweeteners, Beyond Sugar "sounds almost too good to be true."

"This sounds fairly evolutionary. If all they claim is true, then this could be the next step in the evolution of sweeteners, after sucralose," she said.

"One of the reasons why Beyond Sugar will work is that people are tired of artificial. And if it actually does what it says, people will flock to it," she added.

The cost of the product may also place it at an advantage. According to QFD, although its new sweetener is more expensive than sucrose, it is still cheaper than Tate & Lyle's sucralose product Splenda.

For more information on Beyond Sugar click here .

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