Stevia’s bitter taste receptors discovered, claims Givaudan

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Taste, Givaudan

Givaudan has claimed it has discovered the bitter taste receptors triggered by Reb-A, the natural, high intensity sweetener derived from the leaves of the stevia plant.

The company has said that it is in the process of applying for patents related to the discovery and that it is now better able to develop flavor ingredients that block the mechanism of these receptors.

The licorice or bitter aftertaste associated with the Reb-A stevia extract – also known as rebiana, or Rebaudioside A – has been a problem for companies wishing to use the sweetener, and flavor companies have been trying to find ways to mask it without detracting from the perceived benefits of its natural status.

Head of Science and Technology for Givaudan Flavors Dr Bob Eilerman said: “Product developers at food and beverage companies will benefit from this breakthrough ingredient technology to make Reb-A sweetened products taste significantly better than was previously possible.”

Specific stevia flavors

He added that the discovery would lead to masking and enhancing components being incorporated in flavors designed specifically for foods and beverages containing the stevia-derived sweetener.

The company said: “Use of Givaudan’s flavor masking technology enhances the overall taste performance of the sweetener while reducing or eliminating the inherent sensory defects.”

In addition to its flavor ingredient research, Givaudan also assembled a tasting panel of people particularly sensitive to Reb-A off-notes in order to help isolate the bitter flavor and develop better understanding of sensory perception.

Commercial interest

Givaudan claims that it has already seen “a number of commercial successes” ​for companies using its flavor masking ingredients, including for Reb-A, and said: “Over the last two years, Givaudan obtained regulatory approval for six new natural ingredients for intense sweetener taste improvement.”

It is expected that the flood of interest from companies looking to develop beverages with Reb-A will pick up pace after two companies, Merisant and Cargill, received FDA letters of non-objection that their Reb-A ingredients were generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in December.

Following the GRAS notice, both Pepsi-Co and Coca-Cola announced that they would be launching drinks containing the sweetener, which is said to be 200 times sweeter than sugar.

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