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Sweet venture: fermentation-derived plant-based sweetener gets EFSA and FSA greenlight

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EverSweet, Avansya’s zero-calorie sweetener, has received positive safety opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and is set to enter the UK and Europe this year after receiving final authorisation. The sweetener is formulated using a technology that replicates the stevia leaf-based Reb M and D via fermentation and helps F&B formulators meet sugar reduction and clean label demands without compromising taste.

Avansya is a half-and-half partnership between Cargill and DSM-Firmenich that develops non-artificial, calorie-free sweetening solutions. EverSweet is its first product commercialised in the US in 2019 and is currently sold in the US, Canada and Mexico.

The sugar substitute is used to formulate a broad range of food and beverages across global markets. It has a clean, sugar-like taste, rounded flavour profile and fast onset of sweetness, enabling formulators to achieve deeper reductions in sugars than traditional stevia sweeteners.

EverSweet offers a clean, sugar-like taste, rounded flavour profile and fast onset of sweetness for F&B formulations (Image credit: Cargill).

"EverSweet’s improved sweetness profile represents a notable advance over earlier generations of stevia products, enabling much deeper reductions in sugar," Andrew Ohmes, CEO of Avansya.

"It also offers meaningful sustainability advantages over other Reb M stevia sweeteners sourced via the stevia leaf or bioconversion, resulting in less land-use-related impacts, a lower water footprint and a reduction in carbon footprint. It is well-suited for a wide range of reduced or no-sugar-added food and beverage applications, including beverages, dairy and plant-based dairy alternative products, cereals, bars, confections and more, making it the perfect choice when brands want to reduce sugar without sacrificing great taste."

The company is keen to collaborate with EU manufacturers to “bring consumers a new generation of products that reflect their priorities around health, nutrition, indulgence and sustainability.”

“Consumers don’t want to compromise on any of these points; with EverSweet, they don’t have to – it’s the sweetness solution that brings it all together," he continues.

This is significant at a time when consumers are looking to reduce their intake of sugars without compromising on taste or clean labels.

Based on a Cargill proprietary research conducted in 2022 in France, Germany & UK, 64% of consumers claim to avoid sugar when shopping for packaged food & beverages, while 76% avoid artificial intensive sweeteners. Notably, 51% of consumers aged 18-65 are familiar with stevia, which depicts the sweetener’s growing popularity.

Low-impact stevia production

The current production method of stevia leaf is grown on land. In contrast, EverSweet is produced through fermentation, enabling the same steviol glycosides (Reb M, D) but without the land use impact and water footprint, creating a sustainable, scalable and economical supply of Reb M, says the company.

Third-party life cycle assessment of Avansya’s sweetener depicts its sustainability advantages over sugar, with 96% lower land-use-related impacts, 97% less water usage, and 81% reduction in carbon footprint.

Similar advantages were shown compared to bio-converted Reb M, with 88% reduction in land use-related impacts, 92% lower water usage and a 76% lower carbon footprint.

Sugar-slashing gathers pace

Consumers globally are opting for reduced-sugar foods and beverages, seeking to enjoy a healthier indulgence without compromising on taste. This has led to the development of innovative sweeteners that can replicate sugar’s sensory and functional properties while reducing its negative health impacts, suggests Innova Market Insights.

Data analysed by the market researcher for F&B launches with sweeteners from 2021 versus 2023 indicates that sugar-free claims accounted for 14% of the launches, with glycerol and sucralose being the top ingredients (26% each), followed by sorbitol (21%), acesulfame K (20%) and stevia (17%).

“Our proprietary research shows that today’s shoppers are more aware of how much sugar they’re consuming. Yet while consumers are trying to reduce their sugar intake, sweeteners continue to be scrutinised as well. Creating reduced-sugar foods and beverages that taste great and can be considered ‘clean label’ can be a challenge for manufacturers," underscores Ohmes.

“Stevia is a natural fit for consumers seeking nature-derived alternatives to sugar, providing a much cleaner taste profile, with a more sugar-like taste experience. Thus, we are confident that our product will tick the key boxes to be a great success with consumers, satisfying all three main criteria: zero-calorie, non-artificial and great tasting."

Other stevia advances include Tate & Lyle’s stevia sweetener, launched last year, with over 200 times the solubility of Reb M and D products on the market. The sweetener targets common solubility challenges in beverage concentrates, dairy fruit preparations and sweet syrups at high-sugar replacement levels.

Sweegen utilises high-purity non-GMO Reb M and the sweet protein brazzein in their Sweetensify flavours for taste modulation technology. Brazzein and other sweet proteins bind with various taste receptors on the tongue, specifically with the T1R3 receptor, which is linked to the perception of sweetness and umami, the company told earlier this month.

Last year, the stevia industry faced mislabeling issues, specifically concerning Reb M stevia, sold under false claims intentionally. Calling attention to the malpractice, Sweegen offered authenticity tests to help companies verify the integrity of their stevia products and maintain consumer confidence and loyalty.

Earlier this month, Sweegen won a court battle against PureCircle by Ingredion following a May 2022 summary judgment that declared PureCircle’s asserted patents related to the production of Reb M invalid.

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