"No information is available on the physical properties of sugar/polyol blends. There is therefore a real need to understand the physical properties of sugar/polyol systems in order to exploit their use in different food application," explained Leatherhead.
And if the range of food applications for these ingredients is to be expanded, say LFI, there is also a need to understand how polyols affect gelling agents.
"For these reasons LFI is setting up a project to understand the physical properties of polyol/sugars and their combination with gelling agents to allow their use in a wider range of products," said the company.
Polyols are classified as sugar replacers, and the sweetening activity depends on the type of polyol. Xylitol, for example, is the sweetest of all the polyols, but has no after-taste and is safe for diabetics.
With 40 per cent less calories than sugar, a caloric value of 2.4 kcal/g is accepted for nutritional labelling of products, ranging from baked goods and ice cream, to gum and fruit spreads, in the EU and the USA.
The billion euro market for polyols is growing at just under three per cent, compared to over 8 per cent for high intensity sweeteners.
In Europe a handful of polyols - sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, maltitiol and isomalt - have been approved by the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) for use in foodstuffs and fall under the 'additives' label.
But the current legislation restricts the use of polyols to no-sugar or low-sugar products. Dr. Martin Elles, principal confectioner for LFI told FoodNavigator.com that people are also starting to look at the compounds as bulking agents.
When used as bulking agents, the polyols can be used in the presence of sugar. However, data on physical properties of these sugar/polyol systems is not available.
LFI have outlined three approaches to fill these information gaps, including determination of critical moisture contents, water activity, freezing and boiling points, the solubilities of these mixyures, and the effect of the sugar/polyol blends on different gelling agents.
And for this they are calling for participants to extend the polyol applications in sugar-based foods.
The project is open to any number of companies, with any interest, throughout the world. A full proposal for the project will be available soon, and then LFI will start signing up interested companies.
Initial inquiries should be directed to Mrs Persis Subramaniam, section manager confectionary, ingredients and product innovation group.