Magic ingredient needed for diet soft drinks

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Diet soft drinks, Soft drink

A lucrative opportunity exists for the ingredients firm that can
develop a new product to make diet soft drinks taste more
acceptable to consumers, researchers have said.

A different 'mouthfeel' for diet soft drinks, largely due to a more watery texture, presents a significant barrier to further growth, said the two researchers - one of whom works for Tate & Lyle. "Ideally scientists would like to find an ingredient that gives body to diet soft drinks without adding calories or other unpleasant side effects." ​ Modest growth in the diet soft drinks market has held up a rather dismal carbonated soft drinks market across Western Europe and the US over the last year, as health-conscious consumers look for less sugar-laden beverages. Old complaints about the taste of artificial sweeteners have also been eased by new products, such as Tate & Lyle's Sucralose, which is derived from sucrose and so closer to real sugar. But, research by Shelly Schmidt, now working for Tate & Lyle, and Soo-Yeun Lee, a US-based sensory scientist, suggests mouthfeel could be just as important in improving acceptance of diet soft drinks. "Think body, fullness, thickness; regular soda contains high fructose corn syrup, diet soda doesn't." ​ A sensory panel trained for four weeks was able to pick out subtle differences in the feel of different drinks containing different levels of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose, the researchers said. "The human mouth cavity appears to be a super-rheometer (the lab instrument that measures viscosity or thickness),"​ said Schmidt, commenting on the study, which was partly funded by Cargill. "We've identified the problem, but we haven't solved it yet. We need to find an ingredient that has no calories but gives the same mouthfeel as sucrose." ​ Flavour could also make significant difference, the scientists found. "For example, when colour was added to a lemon-lime beverage, panelists believed the beverage had more body,"​ Lee said. "We think the lemon-lime flavour, which is exciting to the mouth, helps mask the mouthfeel difference, and that's why diet lemon-lime drinks were perceived as tasting more like their non-diet counterpart than cola-flavoured drinks." ​ Diet drinks now account for one in every seven litres of fizzy drinks sold worldwide, according to a recent report by Canadean​, the international beverage research group.

Related topics: Ingredients

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