The licorice or bitter flavors associated with the Reb A stevia extract – also known as rebiana, or rebaudioside A – have presented difficulties 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.
Senior director of Sweetener Technology at Wild Flavors Greg Horn told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the company has internally assessed the safety of its OnlySweet-brand Reb A 95 ingredient to be the same as that of its competitors “since the composition is identical”.
“Wild is therefore confirming our conclusions by aggressively working with an outside consultant agency that is foremost in the field of the safety of stevia,” he said. “This will provide reassurance that the stevia extracts we sell into the US market apply to food and beverage use and are not restricted to dietary supplements.”
The company has created its OnlySweet stevia-based sweetening blends in conjunction with Sunwin International, which provides a stevia-derived tabletop sweetener as well as stevia extracts for the neutraceutical industry.
Global stevia regulation
At present, only Merisant and Cargill have been issued with letters of no objection from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that their Reb A sweeteners at 95 percent purity or above are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in food and beverages. Within the US, the use of other stevia extracts – or steviol glycosides – is allowed in dietary supplements or when a specific extract has self-affirmed GRAS.
Globally, the regulatory environment has been changing.
The Australian and New Zealand food standards authority approved steviol glycosides for use in foods in October 2008, while in June the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that stevia extracts containing 95 percent steviol glycosides are safe for human use in the range of four milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.
“Since Wild is a global company,” said Horn, “We are developing Taste Modification Technologies that meet the needs of our customers around the world. Because of the wide array of regulations and the different forms of stevia allowed, Wild has developed taste modifier solutions for various grades of stevia that will meet country-specific consumers’ purchasing power.”
Wild’s stevia solutions
Horn said its ‘taste modification technologies’ are blended with different grades of stevia extract and delivered to the customer in powdered form that dissolves in water.
The company said that they are designed to mask the bitterness and lingering sweetness associated with stevia.
“Additionally we created a unique, proprietary taste modifier to provide a fuller mouthfeel to make the stevia containing products taste closer to sugar. Lastly, our certified flavorists’ expertise in natural aroma chemicals enabled us to add some upfront sweetness to the stevia blend to help correct for the delayed onset of stevia’s sweetness,” Horn added.
Wild Flavors is the latest in a long line of firms to investigate possible solutions for flavor masking and sweetness enhancement for food and beverage applications with Reb A.
Last month, Cargill announced the launch of a range of stevia flavor solutions. In a similar announcement in February, Givaudan said that it was in the process of applying for patents related to what it claimed was its discovery of the bitter taste receptors triggered by the sweetener – technology that would form the basis of its flavor solutions for stevia.
Other flavor firms, including Symrise and Comax, have also developed ranges of bitter blockers, flavor maskers and sweetness extenders specifically for use with stevia. And Reb A supplier PureCircle joined with flavor company Firmenich in January, in order to capitalize on the ingredient’s potential as a flavor enhancer, as well as to speed its commercial use by using Firmenich’s flavor masking and sweetness enhancing technologies.