The first wave of products containing a new natural sweetener from oats called OatSweet have hit shelves in the US, and the firm behind it is now in talks with leading food and beverage manufacturers about incorporating it into everything from ice cream to breakfast cereal.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA as part of our October special edition on natural sweeteners, Oat Tech president Rick Williams said he had been “pleasantly surprised” by the reaction from the market.
While he had expected the most interest from manufacturers currently using evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, honey or brown rice syrup, companies using cheaper mass market sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup have also expressed an interest, he said, in part because of OatSweet’s non-GMO credentials.
“The Prop 37 debate has put the non-GMO issue higher up the agenda for many companies. However, a lot of manufacturers like the fact that OatSweet is easy to use. It works well as a binder and has a clean flavor profile.”
OatSweet contains many oat nutrients along with the sweetness of sugar
Since oats do not allow separation of the starch to make a natural sweetener, Oat Tech uses a patented process developed by founder Dr Paul Whalen to form the sugar in situ or in place, without separation of the oat components, said Williams.
Thus while Oat Tech has removed the components of oats that give it a grainy or oatmeal-type flavor, the syrup still contains proteins, fibers and lipids as well as maltose and glucose (which provide the sweetness), said Williams.
“OatSweet contains many oat nutrients along with the sweetness of sugar. The components also result in the formation of a fantastic caramel flavor with honey notes in the syrup.
“People like the fact it is from oats, which have a healthy image, and the oats are all grown in North America.”
Very easy to use
Samples of OatSweet, 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, meal replacements, non-dairy ice cream, candies and desserts, he said.
The firm currently has a 42DE and a 60DE product [42% as sweet as dextrose; 60% as sweet as dextrose] but can also vary the sweetness to meet requirements, added Williams, who will be promoting the sweetener at Supply Side West in Las Vegas next month.
“It is very easy to use. You can do a straight one-to-one replacement with brown rice syrup, for example.”
The technology behind OatSweet is protected by US patent #6,685,974 with additional patents pending, said Williams.
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.”
While a patent search reveals that PepsiCo has been exploring oat-based sweeteners, Oat Tech believes it is the first company to commercialize something in this space.