New fructose enhancers promise ‘significant amplification’ of sweet taste in HFCS
Senomyx uses high-throughput screening techniques to evaluate thousands of potential flavor ingredients to identify which substances bind to specific taste receptors that tell our brains that something is sweet, savory, salty or bitter.
Speaking at the Midwest IDEAS investor conference in Chicago last week, vice president, investor relations Gwen Rosenberg said Senomyx had made great strides in the development of flavor ingredients that enhanced the sweetness of sucrose (S6973 and S9632) and sucralose (S2383).
“Nobody else we know of has a sucrose enhancer [S6973] that does not have any taste on its own, it just boosts the taste of the sugar that is there. But we are also very excited about [more recent discovery] S9632, which appears to be very effective for a broad range of beverages – whereas S6973 is primarily used for foods.”
However, Senomyx had also identified ingredients demonstrating a statistically significant amplification of the sweet taste of fructose, and was now talking to partners Firmenich and PepsiCo about their potential application in foods and beverages, she said.
“We have found some that are effective in assays and we are now evaluating them in taste tests [exploring their ability to enhance the sweetness of products containing HFCS].”
A case of when, not if, we find a salt enhancer
While Senomyx was still loss-making, royalty payments from high-profile customers and partners from PepsiCo, Nestle and Kraft to Firmenich and Ajinomoto, were now starting to pour in as products containing its ingredients hit the market, said Rosenberg.
And firms that had seen what was possible on the sweet front were now looking to Senomyx to make a breakthrough in salt reduction, she said.
“The major companies know about us now, they are aware of what we are doing. For example with the salt program, I’d like to say [it’s a case of] when, rather than if, we find a salt enhancer. We have companies that are lined up that would be interested in that. Nobody else has that.
“This is a very high priority for us but the most challenging from a scientific aspect. We have a very strong effort on finding salt taste receptors. We’re looking to find salt enhancers that would work in the same manner as our sucrose enhancers.”
The fact PepsiCo had been prepared to pay Senomyx $30m upfront and a further $32m for R&D work on top of any future royalty payments in order to gain exclusive access to the sweet enhancers and novel natural sweeteners covered in their collaboration demonstrated how seriously the Californian firm was now being taken by industry, said Rosenberg.
“We are the only company that has this type of agreement with them. I don’t know of any other company that they have given $30m upfront and another $32m for R&D. We are also in line to get milestone payments and royalties on Pepsi non-alcoholic beverages containing our ingredients.
“We believe we have some unique technology, and they wanted exclusivity so that they could have a competitive advantage.”
Senomyx, which posted a $3.2m net loss on sales up 22.8% to $7m in the three months to June 30, has a library of more than 800,000 potential ingredients that it can screen in order to determine whether they activate, block or enhance taste receptors.