PureCircle has developed stevia-sweetened products for leading players such as PepsiCo for its reduced sugar Pepsi Next brand in Australia.
As part of the Stevia 3.0 approach, PureCircle scientists look at how newly discovered compounds from the stevia leaf can work in combination in food applications.
PureCircle’s global director of technical development and innovation John Martin gave ConfectioneryNews the inside track on the best blends for chocolate and gum.
Stevia in chocolate
“The product that has been working best in chocolate is SG 95 and that’s because it is bringing out more of the cocoa flavor and earthier type notes.”
“What we’ve seen is that if you’re trying to go with complex flavors such as cocoa or chocolate, SG 95 works the best.”
He said that SG 95 (steviol glycosides with 95% purity) could be blended with either Reb A 97 (rebaudioside A with 97% purity) or PureCircle Alpha for added sweetness or a cleaner sweetness.
Bulking support in chocolate
But Martin continued: “It’s a two part challenge when you are using stevia.” Stevia provides only the sweetness and not a bulking function unlike sugar. Bulking agents such as fibers and complex carbohydrates are therefore required.
“The bulking agent also needs to be natural. That limits the amount of bulking agents you can use,” said Martin.
PureCircle recommended using complex carbohydrates – which can come from a variety of sources including wheat and corn.
Stevia chocolate manufacturer Cavalier previously told this site that for bulking it used a blend of natural fibers that contained FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides), inulin and dextrins. Company CEO Felix Verdegem said that the fiber blends made stevia chocolate three times more expensive to produce than a sugar-based version.
For chewing gum, PureCircle has earmarked Reb A 97 as the preferred variety. “That’s because in chewing gum, you want the sweetness to be long lasting,” said Martin.
He said that PureCircle Alpha may also work if a manufacturer wished to reduce the bitterness.
Bulking agents are also required for stevia-sweetened gum, many of which are artificial, added the innovation director.
“If you are trying to go for an all-natural claim, there are limited types of polyols you can use.”
Some polyols such as maltitol or sorbitol may be viewed as chemically-derived because they are produced by hydrogenation.
Martin said that complex carbohydrates were an alternative bulking agent in gum, but were far more challenging to use in chewing gum compared to chocolate because they interfered with the structure.
Stevia trends and costs
Before 2009, chocolate confectionery containing stevia-based sweeteners hardly featured at all, but have now grown to almost a third of all global chocolate launches between 2012 and 2013, according to a joint report from market analyst's Leatherhead Food Research and Mintel.
We asked Martin why it had taken some time to really take off in chocolate.
“Part of it is the cost. The other is that stevia is a new ingredient – more a tinkering type of ingredient – it’s not as straight forward to use like other high intensity sweeteners.”
But he was optimistic about prospects for the sweetener. “Consumers are looking for two big solutions: calorie reduction and naturality and stevia meets both of those.”