With mounting pressure from public health authorities to limit ‘unhealthy’ nutrients from foods, sugar reduction is front-of-mind for many in the business.
Yet, as with all nutrient-specific reformulation – whether it be cutting fat, salt or sugar from diets – food makers face the challenge of taste. How can the food or drink product in question maintain its sweetness, and in doing so, retain its consumer base?
Swiss biotech company Evolva believes it has a solution in its newly launched L-arabinose, which is both a sugar blocker and a reducing sugar.
Inhibiting sucrose digestion
Sweet tasting L-arabinose is a pentose sugar, meaning it is a five-carbon simple carbohydrate (monosaccharide). It can be derived from hemicellulose, which is naturally present in plant materials, such as sugar beet pulp.
The ingredient is particularly suited to food and beverage applications for at least two key reasons: it is both a sugar blocker and a reducing sugar.
“As a sugar blocker, L-arabinose works by blocking the body’s ability to digest sucrose,” Evolva’s head of investor and corporate relations, Barbara Duci, explained. It does this by inhibiting the sucrase enzyme, which breaks down sucrose in the small intestine.
“Studies show that L-arabinose as a sugar blocker can support healthy blood sugar levels and weight management. It also has potential application as a prebiotic,” Duci told this publication.
At the same time, L-arabinose is a reducing sugar, meaning it can act as a reducing agent. “As a reducing sugar, L-Arabinose is frequently applied in the production of Maillard reaction flavours,” the investor and corporate relations lead explained, referencing the reaction responsible for many colours and flavours in foods – such as the browning and umami taste in fried onions and coffee roasting.
“These flavours are key building blocks for savoury flavours, such as chicken and beef,” she added.
Hitting the sweet spot
Evolva makes its L-arabinose by fermentation. Describing it as ‘fully renewable and sustainable’, the company said it has a high-purity level (<99%) and stressed that no hydrochloric acid is used in the manufacturing process.
According to the Swiss biotech, L-arabinose – which was previously known as EVE-X157/Z4 – has a taste profile well-suited to a range of applications in food and drink, from yogurt to chocolate, soft drinks, ice cream, power bars and confectionery.
Given the breadth of its use, L-arabinose has a current market value of CHF 250m (€232m), which is expected to grow by at least 5% per annum. “Evolva is having commercial discussions with major customers, which include first supply volumes for 2021,” noted the firm.
L-Arabinose is FEMA GRAS approved for use in food and beverages, and in Europe Duci confirmed it can be used as a starting material for the Maillard reaction to produce flavours.