BBC Tomorrow’s Food: Reducing Sugar in Chocolate by Using Mushrooms

BBC Tomorroow’s Foods, Dr. Shini Somora

It may be hard to believe, but mushrooms can dramatically reduce the amount of sugar needed in chocolate. Denver based food technology company, MycoTechnology is able to reduce sugar requirements in chocolate by over 50% using their organic process.

Recently, they debuted their technology on BBC Tomorrow’s Food, which Alan Hahn CEO of MycoTechnology explained that the secret is in the root system of mushrooms:

“In nature mushrooms act as the clean up crew for the forest, breaking down toxins and providing nutrients for other plants to grow. By harnessing the root system of mushrooms, they consume the bitter compounds found in chocolate, ultimately reducing the need for masking agents such as sugar.”

Hahn goes onto explain that, “The reason chocolate has upwards of 70% sugar is due to bitterness. Food manufacturers will add sugar to mask the undesirable bitter flavors found in chocolate to the point where it can be detrimental to health.”

Sugar has gone under heavy scrutiny over the past few years, with research indicating its direct role in diabetes and obesity. This is of particular concern with the recent findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which found that toddlers between the ages of 0-2 consume the same amount of sugar as adults. With sugar running rampant in everything from bread to sweets we need innovations from companies like MycoTechnology to help solve the sugar epidemic.

How does it taste?

BBC Tomorroow’s Foods, Dr. Shini Somora

In episode three of Tomorrow’s Food, BBC host, Dr. Shini Somora, did a blind taste test of both the treated and the non-treated cocoa nibs (ground chocolate beans without sugar). First she tasted the unprocessed 100% cacao and found the taste to be almost unpalatable saying, “that is really bitter, it seems like I have just eaten some car tire.” Next, she tried the cacao treated with MycoTechnology’s mushrooms, finding the chocolate to be much more pleasant, “its bitter but its nice, its smooth. This is definitely your chocolate.”

Tomorrow’s Food, Chris Bavin Hits the Streets

Later in the episode, they took to the streets to have passerby’s taste test between the processed chocolate and the every day sugar-laden bar.

BBC Tomorrow’s Foods Mushroom chocolate

BBC Tomorrow’s Foods Mushroom chocolate taste test

Reaction to mushroom chocolate sugar reduction

People were amazed to find out that even with 50% less sugar they were not able to taste a difference between the two bars.

Subscribe and get early access

The chocolate is not available for commercial purchase but MycoTechnology will give subscribers early access to purchase the mushroom chocolate bars before its made available to the general public.

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How Do You Solve the Sugar Epidemic? Solve Flavor Defects

 sugar epidemic and flavor defects
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.

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Artificial sweeteners

One of the first solutions to solve flavor defects without the use of sugar was artificial sweeteners. These substances were created to have zero calories while mimicking the taste of sugar. It was promoted as the perfect solution for the obesity epidemic. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that researchers found a link between the use of artificial sweeteners and bladder cancer. Soon after, researchers also implicated aspartame (a popular artificial sweeter) in causing a variety of tumors. In 2008 research showed that consumption of artificially sweetened beverages is associated with increased risk of diabetes.

Natural Sweeteners

Because of the controversies surrounding artificial sweeteners, scientists today are in constant search for healthier alternatives, especially from natural sources. Stevia is one of the most popular natural sweetener alternatives available on the market. Derived from a plant, this natural sweetener is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar with zero calories. The challenge with Stevia is its bitter metallic aftertaste. Several companies are looking for a solution to the aftertaste issues of stevia.

What is Reb A Stevia
Stevia Leaves – Image courtesy

Monk Fruit is another popular natural sweetener alternative. Monk fruit was GRAS approved in early 2010 and has seen traction in several different categories. However, monk fruit’s high price point and unique aftertaste has limited its potential. Typically, monk fruit has been used in conjunction with stevia to increase overall sweetness with less flavor defects.

Monk Fruit – Image Courtesy

Artificial Bitter Blockers

Flavoring companies have also tried to address bitterness by developing synthetic bitter blocking compounds. They work by blocking a bitter taste from binding with a taste receptor site; without the binding, the bitter taste is not perceived. Historically, chemical blockers have had varying degrees of success at mitigating bitter tastes, usually with limited applications and parameters. Artificial bitter blockers have also had challenges with the evolving consumer landscape who are looking for more natural ingredients.

Organic Bitter Blockers

Till recently there have been no known organic bitter blockers available on the market. It wasn’t until mid 2014 that MycoTechnology discovered the first of its kind. The certified USDA organic blocker is derived from a mushroom extract and used as a processing aid to effectively modulate a wide variety of substrates. MycoTechnology recently struck a deal with several major sweetener manufacturers to improve the flavor defects of stevia and monk fruit, however, it can be used in a broad range of applications.


9 Sugar reduction strategies that food manufacturers can implement today

Sugar Reduction Strategies



The alarming number of obesity and overweight cases in recent years pose serious public health concerns and has prodded food manufacturers to implement new sugar reduction strategies. An observational study in 2007 and a newsletter issued by the Harvard School of Public Health showed a strong correlation between the consumption of simple sugars (such as glucose, fructose and galactose) and the growing obesity epidemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends restricting sugar intake to less than 10% of total daily calorie intake but highly recommends to consume only 5%. Now consumers are taking their health into their own hands and demanding healthier food choices, without caloric sweeteners.

According to the discussion held in 2014 at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo, New Orleans consumers are shifting towards low salt and sugar foods with more than 50% of consumers opting for such food variants. With this rising trend, the food industry is making headway towards reformulating their food products to bring about healthier options that consumers are demanding.

Following are some sugar reduction strategies that food manufacturers can implement today:

Sugar Reduction Strategies of 2016:


1. High Intensity Sweeteners

Nowadays, consumers are opting for natural sweeteners instead of artificial in order to avoid potential health issues. Stevia is one such non-nutritive, zero glycemic index, natural sweetener that has recently been approved for use in foods by the FDA. It been popularized because its 200-300 times sweeter than the table sugar without the added calories, however, its aftertaste poses a challenge for product formulators. Several have tried to create better tasting stevia through the use of bitter blockers, modifiers, GMO’s and organic strategies.

Recently, a team at Cornell University found that bovine serum albumin helped to reduce stevia’s aftertaste. Cargill developed a GMO yeast that produces steviol glycosides (the sweet part of stevia) that has less bitter off notes. However, there are organic alternatives that can improve the taste of stevia. MycoTechnology found a particular mushroom extract used as a processing aid, eliminates the aftertaste of stevia which is certified USDA Organic.

2. Sweet receptor modulators

Most sweet receptor modulators are Positive Allosteric Modulators (PAM), which are substances that modify the perception of sweetness and improve sweet taste receptor activity. PAMs do not produce sweetness on their own, but trigger the sweetness intensity of low-calorie or zero‑calorie sweeteners. The advantage of using sweetness modulators is to reduce the associated bitterness and lingering tastes of sweeteners.

3. Cross-Modal Correspondence

Using molecular biology, your taste buds can be tricked into thinking foods are sweeter than they actually are. This works because sweetness is perceived in the mouth and when a sweetener interacts with salvia an interaction happens between olfaction and gustation. This is why when using vanilla above or below the aroma threshold, enhances the perceived sweetness of a product.

Other cross-modal correspondence that can be used to change the perception of sweetness is the color and shape of a product. For example strawberry mousse was perceived to be 10% sweeter and more well liked on a white plate than a black plate. Hot chocolate tastes sweeter and has more of an aroma in a dark cream cup than in white or red cup. Foods that are red are perceived as sweeter.

4. Sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols are a type of reduced-calorie sweetener that has less of an effect on blood glucose levels. These can be used as a sugar reduction strategy due to their minimal caloric effect. The challenge with sugar alcohols is their laxative effect, particularly in children. Some of the legally approved sugar alcohols include: sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, erythritol and maltitol.

5. Reduce the bitterness


Many foods in their natural state are bitter. Often times this is a natural defenses against predators and may signal to the predator some type of toxicity. The tried and true way to cover the bitter flavors has been sweeteners. Organic bitter blockers are now available that reduce the need for sugar. Bitter blockers work by inhibiting a bitter taste from binding with a bitter taste receptor.

MycoTechnology recently introduced a certified organic bitter blocker called ClearTaste™ which is a novel way to effectively reduce the lingering bitterness from a variety of food and beverage applications, particularly stevia and monk fruit.



6. Prebiotics

Sweeteners such as sucralose and saccharin have detrimental effects on gut microflora, which may result in complications like glucose intolerance. These sugars also elevate the secretion of a hunger hormone- ghrelin, leading to obesity.

On the other hand, an indigestible synthetic polymer called polydextrose has been recognized by the FDA as a soluble fiber. Polydextrose, can be used as a sugar substitute in various food processes since it functions as a prebiotic. It also serves as a thickening agent in many formulations. Additionally, the research has shown that xylitol contributes in reducing the levels of salivary mutans streptococci significantly.

7. Antioxidants

Normal table sugar doesn’t have antioxidant property. However, naturally occurring sugar alcohol erythritol comes with a plus that it has a potent antioxidant property. Additionally, as erythritol provides 60‑70 percent sweetness as sucrose, it can be efficaciously used as a sugar substitute. Its caloric value is 0.2 kcal/gm giving 95 percent lower calories than table sugar.

Recent research says that erythritol acts as an antioxidant and may help in protecting against hyperglycemia-induced vascular damage. The scientific data also supports the use of erythritol as a ‘diabetic-safe’ sweetener.

8. Ribose sugar for ATP-depleted muscles

Ribose sugar is made naturally in the body and consists of five-carbon bonds. Ribose is a base of vital compounds like DNA, RNA and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP molecules are required for energy generation and these molecules are depleted faster.

Research supports that external ribose supplementation helps in ATP synthesis and replenishes muscle cells from stress. Ribose can be used as a low-calorie sweetener and is half as sweet as sucrose. Various studies also reveal that ribose administration can benefit patients with congestive cardiac failure and ischemic heart failure by increasing heart muscle power.

9. Bulking agents

As sweeteners tend to be multiple times sweeter than sucrose, they are required to be added in small quantities. As a result, the bulk of that particular food product decreases raising the question about its volume, texture and mouth feel. Hence, bulking agents are needed along with sugar substitutes.

An appealing approach to address this problem is to use natural sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, erythritol, isomalt, maltodextrin and mannitol as they provide sweetness and texture to the food product. Other bulking agents that would add volume, but not sweetness are soluble fibers like inulin and polydextrose.

 Have another strategy? Add it to the comments below.


What is Reb A Stevia?

What is Reb A Stevia

What is Reb A Stevia

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

  • Stevioside
  • Steviolbioside
  • Rubusoside
  • Dulcoside A
  • Rebaudioside A
  • Rebaudioside B
  • Rebaudioside C
  • Rebaudioside D
  • Rebaudioside E
  • Rebaudioside F

Extraction Process of Steviol Glycosides

In 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 Regulatory

In 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 A

Most 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:

  1. Sweet Taste
  2. Bitter Taste
  3. Licorice
  4. Astringent
  5. Sweet Aftertaste
  6. Aftertaste
  7. Cooling
  8. Total Aroma

Even stevia extracts with a high percentage of Reb A, still has some of these negative attributes however, it is less noticeable.

Human taste buds contain different receptors to identify sweet and bitter compounds. While there is only one receptor responsible for sweetness, there are 25 that identify bitterness; however, only two receptors, hTAS2R4 and hTAS2R14 are activated when consuming stevia. The challenge for stevia is that sweetness and bitterness come from the same glycoside and the different solutions that have been developed typically will effect both bitterness and sweetness together.

Innovations in the stevia industry

Companies looking to use stevia in their product formulations are looking for innovative solutions to solve the taste defect issues found in stevia. There are three different approaches that have been used:


Several companies have developed synthetic solutions to help reduce stevia’s aftertaste. Synthetic chemicals are used as a bitter blocker to block a bitter taste from binding with a bitter taste receptor. Without the binding affect a person would not be able to perceive the bitterness from stevia. Synthetic solutions however are not 100% effective and are often limited to specific applications and tend to lose some of the total sweetness.

Genetically Modified

Other companies have developed genetically modified solutions to help with the aftertaste. Companies have created methods to genetically modified yeast to produce Reb A glycosides. Although the yeast is genetically modified the Reb A glycosides are considered natural by the FDA; however, the Non-GMO project verified committee has already commented saying that they will not be approving any product using this method.


Another company has taken a different approach and developed an organic bitter blocker derived from mushrooms that effectively improves stevia’s flavor profile. Bitterness, licorice, astringency, sweetness aftertaste, aftertaste and cooling effect are all improved will maintaining total sweetness. The organic technology has recently been adopted by some of the top stevia manufacturers in the world.

History of Stevia

Stevia is a native shrub to South America which has been used for centuries as a sugar substitute. Stevia was first commercialized in Japan just over 40 years ago, which was used as a natural sweetening agent. Now stevia has been approved for use in Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Russia, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil and Malaysia. However, as of mid 2015 India has approved stevia extracts to be used in foods, which has exponentially grown the stevia market place.

Consumers Driving the Stevia Market

The World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that stevia could replace 20-30% of all dietary sweeteners within the coming years. This is based on consumers becoming more educated on the effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners, which in turn is driving demand for natural, non-caloric, high intensity sweetener alternatives like stevia. With new technologies and innovations the stevia market could soon become a successful alternative to sugar.