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Sweetness enhancer is Reb C, says Redpoint

By Jess Halliday , 12-Jan-2010
Last updated on 28-Jan-2011 at 15:10 GMT

Redpoint Bio has revealed that is RP44 sweetness enhancer is in fact Reb-C, a component of stevia and a side stream of Reb-A production. It could be used in conjunction with Reb-A and sugar to lower calorie levels further than previously possible.

The development company announced last July that it had identified a new sweetness enhancer from a natural source. Although it said its production was possible on a scale comparable to stevia, it was not discussing its source in the open.

Since then, the company has been seeking a partner with which to commercialise it. Ray Salemme, Redpoint’s CEO, told FoodNavigator-USA.com that revelation is part of the on-going efforts to identify suitable partners.

Stevia has been a topic of great discussion in the food sector since the first Reb-A GRAS no-objections were granted by the FDA 13 months ago. Market interest has been high, but Reb-A’s licorice aftertaste in some application trials has triggered considerable formulation and masking work..

Major Reb-A supplier Pure Circle has suggested that Reb-A could be used in combination with nutritive sweeteners like sugar, to enable fewer calories but with the sweetness built back in.

But Salemme said there there tends to be a limit to how much the calorie content can be lowered without encountering the aftertaste of Reb-A, around 25 per cent, depending on the application.

If Reb C is used as well, a far greater reduction, of 50 percent, could be possible, he said.

Reb C does not work to enhance the sweetness of the Reb A; Reb A and Reb C act on the same taste receptor. Rather, it works on the nutritive sweetener, so that even less needs to be used.

On its own, Reb C does not have a sweet profile at all. In small amounts it is quite tasteless, but in large quantities it actually has a rather bitter taste. “Because of that, people have focused on purification of Reb-A and getting rid of Reb-C,” Salemme said.

“When we found Reb-C is an enhancer, it was counter-intuitive to people in the industry as they thought it was a bad actor.”

Speed to market

Salemme said that most people that have conducted trials are now aware that it is Reb-C, but those in the industry who are not may believe that such a discovery would be years from market. That is not necessarily the case.

While Reb-A, the sweetening component of the stevia plant has FDA GRAS in the US, Redpoint’s understanding of the WHO/FAO JECFA (Joint Executive Committee on Food Additives) approval is that it applies to extracts of stevia with a 95 per cent and over purity of all steviol glycosides, in any configuration.

This would make Reb C authorised for use in some markets that have already approved stevia extracts that adhere to the JECFA specifications, including Australia and New Zealand.

If Reb-C were to seek GRAS, the notification process (which requires extensive safety testing), usually takes between 12 and 18 months. Redpoint has been looking into the possibility of seeking GRAS either itself, or with a commercial partner.

“Our potential partners have a lot of expertise in that area,” said Salemme.

Commercial scale up

At present Redpoint is producing trial quantities of Reb C for potential partners to explore how it can be used in different applications, but as a development company is not in its current game plan to produce it on a commercial scale.

Rather, it is talking with suppliers of Reb A to determine the economics and manufacturing processes that would be required to put more material into the hands of potential commercial partners.

Redpoint is not necessarily looking for two different partners, one for production and one for commercialisation; Salemme said there is “somewhat of a dynamic, as there are lots of existing relationships between suppliers of Reb A and industry users”.

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