Boost for sweetener sector following Codex Alimentarius recognition of steviol glycosides tech
21 Jan 2022 --- International food standards body Codex Alimentarius has adopted the specifications for four different technologies for the production of steviol glycosides, including stevia supplier Sweegen’s bioconversion. The move will boost sugar-reducing solutions and benefit the stevia sector.
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Sweegen’s head of global sales, Luca Giannone, says that the significance of the adoption is that there is now a more streamlined approach to regional commercialization of new production technologies.
Sweegen anticipates this will provide greater access to less common and better-tasting steviol glycosides at scale and a more sustainable supply of the sugar-like tasting ingredients.
“We are continually enhancing our bioconversion capabilities to create multiple pure rebaudiosides from stevia plant extracts and developing customized solutions of nature-based high-intensity sweeteners with even better flavor profiles for a wide range of food and beverage applications,” remarks Giannone.
“The adopted framework is good news for brands that want greater access to Sweegen’s pure and clean-tasting stevia ingredients, Rebs D, E, M and more,” he continues.
“The Framework approach ensures that business operators can put steviol glycosides produced through their various technologies on the market without submitting new dossiers, provided they fulfill the defined criteria and specifications per technology,” says Maria Teresa Scardigli, executive director of the International Stevia Council.
“This is based on the authorities’ review of the production technology, ensuring the highest level of safety, purity and quality is achieved for the final steviol glycoside ingredient put on the market.”
Adhering to the Food Code
The Codex Alimentarius, or “Food Code” is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
The Commission is the central part of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme and was established by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.
Sweegen’s support for outlining the “Framework for Stevia Technology” in the Food Code started four years ago within meetings of its stevia industry alliance group, the International Stevia Council. Within this coalition, Sweegen represented bioconversion technology.
“With this framework, most countries in the world will gradually adopt this standard. Our global stevia footprint can expand more rapidly into countries where we are seeking approval for offering our pure, clean and great-tasting Signature Bestevia ingredients produced by bioconversion,” continues Giannone.
Sweegen’s portfolio of rebaudiosides
Modern technology advancements, such as bioconversion, produce clean, new generation sweetener molecules, such as Rebaudiosides M, D and E. These are originally found in small quantities in the stevia leaf.
Sweegen is continuing to focus its efforts on discovering and producing more molecules found in the stevia leaf with great sensory profiles through its bioconversion. Expanding its toolbox of rebaudiosides, SweeGen most recently commercialized its Bestevia Rebaudioside N (Reb N), which is produced through a patented bioconversion technology from biotech company Conagen.
“By leveraging proprietary bioconversion technology, we start with the stevia leaf, and with the support of enzymes, produce a final product that is a single purified steviol glycoside (not a mixture) that naturally occurs in the stevia leaf,” Gianonne explains.
“We are continually enhancing our bioconversion capabilities to create multiple pure rebaudiosides from stevia plant extracts and developing customized solutions of nature-based high-intensity sweeteners with even better flavor profiles for a wide range of food and beverage applications.”
Under the new framework, all of Sweegen’s rebaudiosides are approved by Codex.
Last year, Sweegen earned regulatory approval for its Signature Bestevia Reb M in Europe, which enables greater flexibility in satisfying regional preferences for sweetness and taste.
Since then, Reb M has been an ingredient in launches across the better-for-you category, such as in zero-sugar tonics.
Unlike first-generation ingredients like Rebaudioside A, these rebaudiosides impart a clean sugar-like taste with a better sensory profile and are highly sought-after by food and beverage manufacturers in countries where they have regulatory approvals.
What’s next for stevia?
As its next generations gain regulatory approval, stevia continues to gain traction within the sweetening space, featuring prominently in sports drinks and health-positioned treats. According to Innova Market Insights, new global product launches with stevia are averaging an annual growth of 15% every year (from 2016 to 2021).
Data from Innova shows that global product launches with stevia have increased by 21.9% CAGR over the past 10 years (2011 to 2021). In the same period, the majority of product launches have taken place in North America, Asia and Western Europe.
Furthermore, there has been an increase of more than 35% of new product launches with stevia in regions such as Eastern Europe, Australasia, Africa and the Middle East in this same time period. The adoption by Codex will open more markets for the use of stevia.
However, data analysis from the market researcher highlights that over 35% of consumers globally are still not aware of stevia and need to be educated about this ingredient and its varieties.
“Prepare to see more innovation around Sweegen’s Flavors for Taste Modulation,” says Gianonne.
“For example, our bitter blocking technology mitigates the off-tastes imparted by bitterants such as caffeine or theobromine in chocolate, and is a must for product developers’ toolkits. It is a clean label, sustainable and natural tool,” he continues.
“With our growing portfolio of Signature Sweeteners and Flavors for Taste Modulation, expect to see great product concepts in better-for-you beverages, confectionery, condiments, and plant-based products.”
By Benjamin Ferrer
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