IconiSweet – Clean Label Sweetening System

The Harmonic Notes of Sweet Success

A symphony cannot be played alone. It needs an orchestra to be heard. The same is true of sweeteners in today’s every changing world. As a single ingredient sugar hits the mark for delivering full rounded flavor, bulking, and browning properties. As formulations trend toward reduced sugar or low sugar, combinations of sweeteners are now necessary to fill all of the roles previously filled by that one ingredient, Today’s food developers must rely on a sweetening system to fill the void.

At the same time that consumers are reducing their sugar intake, increasingly they are buying products that carry clean labels and deliver clean flavors. Although consumers may base their purchases on natural ingredients, flavor is the ultimate driver.

FDA’s required labeling of added sugars further challenges food manufacturers and food developers. To satisfy diet conscious consumers and marketing directives, the food scientist is pressed to add sweetness while limiting sweeteners that are considered added sugars. Honey and agave impart natural sweetness so they have their place in the natural consumer market; however, their caloric delivery is comparable to sugar. Prior to FDA’s labeling regulation, the average consumer seeking natural products might automatically accept a product with honey or agave in the ingredient statement. With the callout of added sugars, the consumer may choose a product with less or no added sugar. Not only might the product be assumed to have more calories, it may be perceived as being processed because the Nutrition Facts panel clearly says something was added.

A blend of natural, high intensity sweeteners is a helpful tool for food scientists to reduce sugar and calories while avoiding the added sugar callout. For example, a blend of erythritol, allulose, stevia extract, and monk fruit extract has the beauty of super low sugars with functionality and a clean label benefit. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that, by itself, is 70 percent as sweet as sugar. It’s a low-digestible carbohydrate so it has practically zero calories. Allulose is naturally found in wheat, figs, raisins, and jackfruit. Like erythritol, it’s 70 percent as sweet as sugar. As a non-digestible carbohydrate, it too, has near zero calories.

Stevia and monk fruit are both derived from plants. Stevia gets its natural, high intensity sweetness from the leaves of the South American plant Stevia rebaudiana. Monk fruit is the fruit of an Asian vine Siraitia grosvenorii. Both sweeteners are complex and potentially variable because their base, either leaves or fruit, possess countless compounds, glycosides in the case of stevia and mogrosides in monk fruit. Flavor is determined by the actual components extracted from the plant and the ratios in which they are present in the final sweetener. Methods of extraction can also impact flavor, particularly when chemicals are used. Their sweetness is 200 to 250 times that of sugar. Even though both sweeteners are used at very low levels, flavor is a significant attribute.

Each sweetener has its own quirks when used alone. Erythritol lends a slight cooling effect. Stevia can impart a licorice note. Melon rind is often used to describe monk fruit’s character. It might be said that combining these sweeteners at optimum levels with allulose creates an entirely new sweetener because of the synergy they create, just as sound of the single orchestra member becomes so much more in the presence of the symphony.

Full functionality is realized when these sweeteners play together. Off-notes from stevia or monk fruit are mitigated by erythritol and allulose. Erythritol drives down freezing depression while the allulose increases overrun in frozen desserts. Allulose offsets, completely, any cooling effect that erythritol might add to candy. Because of its low molecular weight, erythritol lowers water activity, a benefit in extending shelf life of baked goods. This sweetener participates in the Maillard reaction, so breads and cookies will develop a golden hue. “This is probably the cleanest sweetening system I have ever worked with and versatile since there is browning,” said Thom King, CEO and food scientist, Icon Foods, Portland, OR.

IconiSweet, a new product from Icon Foods, brings these ingredients into perfect proportion, masterfully striking the chord of clean flavor and clean label. In any formula, this sweetener’s flavor is consonant, thereby reducing the need for added modifiers. Time on the bench is reduced because one ingredient replaces four. Being given a starting range of ingredient usage in a given food system further reduces the number of attempts at the bench, whether the goal is a reduced sugar claim, a no sugar claim, or reduction of declared added sugar. Since the sweetener does not contribute added sugars, the Nutrient Facts panel has a healthy halo with negligible calories contributed. One hundred grams of IconiSweet has 20 calories.

As consumers look to increase their nutritional intake from natural sources, food developers are looking for assurance that the ingredients they buy are minimally processed. Icon Foods, Portland, OR, is distinct in their dedication to supplying products that are derived via fermentation or natural water and vegetable-alcohol extractions. Stevia extracts are uniquely water-extracted. It is a process that consumers understand, and it offers exceptionally clean flavor with no petro-chemical residue. Most of Icon Foods’ products are certified GMO free and Kosher.

The company offers a variety of sweetener blends, including combinations of stevia with fructose, monk fruit, coconut sugar, agave nectar, erythritol, and allulose. This gives developers a single, easy-to-use ingredient for sweeteners, with the added benefit of ingredient consistency in the manufacturing process.

Icon Foods’ research and development team also offers custom sweetening solutions. Any sweetening blend can be combined with other sweeteners to create matchless sweetness profiles in reduced-sugar consumer goods. Unexpected synergies may enhance flavor and even allow for reduction of costly ingredients.

Food technologist and developers are facing challenges to deliver innovative products that meet taste and texture expectations, while also including myriad nutritional and textural enhancements. Abandoning sucrose and corn syrup in favor of clean-label sweeteners can be the least-difficult step on the path toward customer approval.

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