A sugar substitute launched in the UK and Ireland in March is starting to find favour with confectioners.
Cormac Walsh, managing director of Zsweet Europe confirmed to ConfectioneryNews.com that Zsweet has been tested by a marshmallow producer in Dublin and is expected to start production using the sweetener in eight months or so.
Walsh said there is "something in the pipeline."
Zsweet is a blend of erythritol and natural fruit extracts. Erythritol naturally occurs at low levels in many fruits and at higher levels in fermented foods such as soy sauce, cheese, wine and beer. It contains a variety of benefits, including low-calorie content, low GI index and a low laxative effect.
Walsh said that the main application at the moment was in home baking but "without a doubt" he sees a future for its use in confectionery and bakery manufacturing.
He admitted that there are at the moment certain technical constraints on erythritol's use, which might pose limitations in the short term. For instance, a trial by a chocolate company resulted in a product with a suitable taste, but a bubbly appearance due to the heat used in the process.
Such issues are down to erythritol rather than Zsweet's specific blend.
"As a basic ingredient, it is not as flexible as sugar in terms of how it is used in the manufacturing process," said Walsh.
Now that erythritol has gained the gree light Euro-wide, however, it is expected that more money will be channelled into exploring its use in different applications.
In the meantime, Walsh said that manufacturers would conduct their own trials on how the sweetener can best be used to yield the best results. One approach suggested could be to try combining erythritol with some proportion of sugar.
The company is aiming the new sweetener, which has no calories, at the health conscious and those with diabetes.
Walsh explained that diabetes was the driving force behind the product. The company's founder in the US, Tim Avila, has seen loved ones affected by the condition.
Erythritol has a very low glycaemic index and does not raise blood glucose or insulin levels, therefore serving as a useful sugar alternative for the growing number of people with diabetic and pre-diabetic conditions.
The company adds: "Zsweet even digests differently from other sweeteners. It's absorbed easily, thanks to the erythritol, and needs minimal digestion. This significantly reduces intestinal distress and eliminates laxation when used in recommended amounts."
In its advertising the company draws attention to the controversy that has surrounded some artificial sweeteners such as those containing aspartame saying that with Zsweet there are no such problems, Z standing for "zero calories, zero glycaemic impact, zero aftertaste…and zero worries."
Erythirol has only recently been recognised by all EU member states as an approved sweetener.
A European Directive from July 2006 required European countries to accept the sweetner within 18 months, with February 15 2008 being the deadline.
John Madden, ingredients account manager at Euromonitor said: "As a natural sweetner, erythritol is in a position to take advantage of interest in natural ingredients. It should be able to establish its own position in the European sweetners market."
Euromonitor predicted that European consumption of the sweetner will grow following adoption of the directive.
It found that in Western Europe consumption rose from 5,308 tonnes in 2006 to 5,391 tonnes last year and is expected to rise to 5,467 tonnes in 2008.
Swiss-based Jungbunzlauer claims to be the only company currently able to produce the sweetner in Europe, however, US-based Cargill has been producing the sweetner for international use since the 1980s and played a key role in pushing forward European regulatory approval.