Icon Foods’ sweetness modulators ‘bury’ off-notes of sugar alternatives for more appealing flavor profiles

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/ Juanmonino
Source: Getty/ Juanmonino

Related tags sugar reduction Stevia Sweeteners Sugar substitute Sugar

Two new sweetness modulators from Icon Foods promise to smooth out the flavor profiles of popular sugar substitutes that, despite significant advancements, continue to fall short of recreating the flavor of processed sugar – either because they come on too strong, peak too early or have off-notes that linger once their sweetness dissipates.

CitruSweet and ThauSweet, both made from natural extracts and several hundred times sweeter than sugar, overcome these challenges by boosting either the upfront or backend sweetness of sugar substitutes, like stevia and monk fruit, creating a technical effect that last the entire eating experience, Icon Foods CEO Thom King told FoodNavigator-USA.

He explained that by effectively “stretching” the sweetness of sugar alternatives, CitruSweet and ThauSweet not only create a more stable flavor, but they also “bury” off-notes associated with some sweeteners or with the ingredients that the sweeteners are meant to soften or cover.

For example, ThauSweet, which is made from proteins in Katemfe fruit sourced from West Africa, can be up to 3,000 times sweeter than sugar – creating a stronger sweetness that lingers on the tongue upwards of five minutes – far outlasting the metallic, bitter or astringent flavors often associated with popular natural sweeteners after they peak.

Historically, these off-notes have been minimized by flavor-maskers or bitter-blockers which, while effective, can also dampen desired flavors or hinder the effectiveness of acids as flavor conductors -- forcing food scientists to either add more flavor, which can also add to the overall cost, or reformulate in other ways that can complicate production and ingredient decks.

ThauSweet also can be an effective alternative to aspartame, King said, because it is sourced from a protein in the seed of katemfe fruit that is similar to phenylalanine, but does not adversely affect phenylketonurics, who cannot safely metabolize phenylalanine. As such, he explained, products with ThauSweet do not need the same warning as those made with aspartame – making it an appealing option for manufacturers and consumers looking for clean label products.

CitruSweet’s lingering effect

Like ThauSweet, CitruSweet helps boost the sweetness of sugar alternatives, but its strength comes from when and where the flavor hits the palate, King said.

He explained that CitruSweet, which is sourced the bioflavonoid naringin found in the inner peel of citrus fruits, is about 1,500 times sweeter than sugar, but unlike sugar and other sweeteners it starts out as slightly bitter but slowly builds a sensation of sweetness on the back of the palate over 30 to 45 seconds.

The result is a fuller overall flavor and, again, a lingering sweetness can cover lingering off-notes either from alternative sweeteners or other popular ingredients.

For example, King noted, CitruSweet is a powerful complement in making palatable increasingly popular adaptogens, which often have powerful bitter and astringent up-front flavor profiles that can overpower and outlast the flavor masking capabilities of high intensity sweeteners alone.

Both modulators are available now and have strong supplies, King says, noting Icon Foods’ strategy of building redundancy into its supply chain and sourcing ingredients from multiple sources.

He added that both are also cost effective solutions, coming in under $50 per kilogram and with most products using less than 1%, making their cost contribution mere pennies.

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