With the average American consuming three times the daily recommend amount of sugar and obesity reaching epidemic proportions, the food industry is frantically trying to develop healthier products. However, taking sugar out of foods is not as simple as it sounds as it provides a critical role in product development due to flavor defects. Product formulators are tasked with creating great tasting products that can be enjoyed by the masses. The challenge is that many natural ingredients have flavor defects such as bitterness, astringency and sourness which are off-putting to consumers. Their efforts become particularly challenging when developing products that are also, non-GMO, chemical-free and organic. To combat flavor defects, food manufacturers have adopted a practice known as masking, which is capable of hiding the unwanted tastes. Flavor masking works by over satiating taste receptors to the point of not being able to detect flavor. Vanillin and aroma chemicals are common masking agents but the most popular is sugar. Sugar is highly effective, inexpensive and provides structure to foods that few ingredients can; however, its health implications and the changing consumer landscape poses a challenge for its use in future product formulations. But the challenges continue: Although more than 51% say they want less sugar in their foods, taste is the most important factor in product acceptance and consumers are unwilling to compromise. Over the past several years, food manufacturers have been looking for solutions that are capable of providing full flavor without the added calories; however, finding effective sugar replacements that align with consumer trends has posed challenging. [convertkit form=4863405]
Category: Natural Sweeteners
While stevia refers to the entire plant, Rebaudioside A or Reb A is the primary steviol glycoside that make stevia sweet. There are typically 10 different steviol glycosides that can be found in varying concentrations within the stevia plant.
10 Steviol Glycosides found in Stevia
- Dulcoside A
- Rebaudioside A
- Rebaudioside B
- Rebaudioside C
- Rebaudioside D
- Rebaudioside E
- Rebaudioside F
Extraction Process of Steviol GlycosidesIn order to be used in foods the glycosides need to be purified into extracts, which can be done with simple water/alcohol extraction techniques. The extraction process does not effect the composition or structure of the steviol glycosides. The first step in the extraction process involves soaking the stevia leaves in hot water in order to separate the liquid from the plant. The plant is further purified using water and/or food grade alcohol to make a fine white powder.
FDA RegulatoryIn the United States, stevia extracts must be comprised of 95% steviol glycosides in order to be used as a general purpose sweetener. While the overall percentage of steviol glycosides needs to be above 95%, the industry often refers to stevia based on its primary glycoside Rebaudioside A.
Sensory Analysis of Reb AMost manufacturers produce stevia that has a Reb A concentration of 95% or higher. This is because although stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, its flavor profile is often found to be unfavorable by many consumers, which is more noticeable in lower concentrations of Reb A. Stevia has eight different flavor characteristics which can be tasted in the following order:
- Sweet Taste
- Bitter Taste
- Sweet Aftertaste
- Total Aroma