In 1996 Arla Food Ingredients won the worldwide rights to produce and commercialise the new tooth-friendly sweetener tagatose from inventor US firm Spherix. Only in recent months has the ingredient started to seep into the marketplace, notably in the US through a new juice from Pasco Beverage distributed in the giant retail chain Wal-Mart.
Tagatose occurs naturally at low levels in the gum from Sterculia setigera (an evergreen tree), as well as heated cow's milk and other dairy products. It is used in a range of food and beverage formulations to include breakfast cereals, carbonated and non-carbonated diet soft drinks, and diet soft confectionery and chewing gum.
The ingredient, sold under the brand name of Gaio tagatose, entered the Australian and New Zealand markets for the first time this year through the formulation of a new range of chocolate products made by Miada Sports Nutrition of New Zealand.
"Research commissioned by Miada and conducted by nutrition researcher Dr. Alison Wallace at the New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research, showed that the chocolate tested had a GL of 1 and an estimated GI of 8. Readings below 10 for GL and below 55 for GI are considered low," reports US-based tagatose inventor Spherix on the latest study on the first chocolate formulation made with tagatose.
Both glycaemic index (GI) or glycaemic load (GL) give a measure of how blood glucose levels rise immediately after consumption of a food, GL is related to portion sizes, whereas GI allows for an easier comparison between different products. A low GI food will cause a small rise in blood sugar levels, whereas a higher GI food may trigger a large increase, causing glucose levels to rise rapidly.
High GI foods are thought to raise risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, both growing rapidly in many parts of the world.
And while low carbohydrate diets are currently all the rage in the US, Australian dieters are increasingly using the 'glycaemic index' (GI) to change their eating habits, and market analysts estimate that this trend could soon make an impact in Europe.
Market research firm Mintel recently predicted that this type of carbohydrate control could soon take over the popularity of the low carbohydrate Atkins diet in the UK, where obesity affects a growing proportion of people. In June this year the UK's number one supermarket Tesco announced it would introduce new food labels that rank a product according to its position on the glycaemic index.
The findings from New Zealand reported this week build on recent science from Australian scientists that confirmed tagatose's low glycaemic (GI) response, an index increasingly used by dieters as a form of carbohydrate control.
"These results, well below that of competing sweeteners, may make foods and beverages with tagatose even more attractive to a weight-conscious public that increasingly embraces lowering carbohydrates to lose weight," said Dr. Gilbert V. Levin, executive officer for science at Spherix, earlier this year.
According to Spherix, the university stated that compared to glucose, which had glycaemic and insulinaemic responses of 100 per cent, Gaio tagatose produced very low glycaemic and insulinaemic responses of only 3 per cent.
In May this year Arla Food Ingredients farmed out the tagatoe rights for distribution for Australia and New Zealand to fellow ingredients firm Nutrinova. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.