SupplyExpo 2010: Stevia 2.0

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SupplyExpo took place from March 12-14 at the Anaheim Convention Center. SupplyExpo is part of Natural Products Expo West, which attracted over 55,000 attendees/exhibitors to this year’s event. Over 140 SupplyExpo exhibits were set up at the event primarily to attract the hundred of natural product manufacturers that were exhibiting in the adjacent halls.

Natural no-cal sweeteners were in the spotlight at SupplyExpo and Expo West. The emergence of Stevia-based sweeteners in 2009 such as Reb-A has permitted a wave of reduced-calorie beverages access to the natural foods sector which hitherto had very few viable all natural low-calorie sweeteners.

Over a year has passed since reb-a achieved GRAS status as an ingredient for foods and beverages. During that time the industry has dealt with issues such as bulk material shortages, product consistency, and beverage formulation challenges. The dust appears to be settling and several supplier companies now offer improved formulations of their Stevia-based sweeteners. Additionally, the beverage manufacturers have in many cases chosen to use Reb-a as part of their sweetener mix in products, rather than as a stand-alone sweetener.

Natural sweeteners were the focus of a two-day educational track at Nutracon (the two-day conference event that precedes Expo West). Entitled “Mainstreaming of Natural Sweeteners: From Promise to Perfection” the track tackled concepts ranging from regulations to marketing, including a case study by Derek Newman, CEO of Zevia.

Jim Tonkin, President of HealthyBrandBuilders and co-chair of the natural sweeteners track at Nutracon, offered the following statement to BevNET on the future of Stevia and other natural sweeteners: “Given the epidemic levels of obesity among North Americans, low or non-caloric sweeteners are great options for beverages. The only issue affecting Stevia use is the aftertaste present in finished foods and beverages when not properly hidden by masking agents. Once that obstacle is overcome, the majors like Coke and Pepsi will again consider using Stevia in many portfolio brands”

One natural sweetener that might have a more mainstream role in the future beverage marketplace is monk fruit (better known by its Chinese name, luo han guo). Monk fruit is a zero-calorie sweetener derived from the fruits of a vine native to southern China and Northern Thailand. The fruits contain mogrosides, a group of Triterpene-Glycosides that are approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar and make up approximately 1 percent of the flesh of the fresh fruit.

BevNET sampled a monk fruit-sweetened beverage called Flatbelly at the Fruit-Sweetness booth at SupplyExpo. The recently launched Flatbelly protein shake (available in three flavors) is sweetened exclusively with Fruit-Sweetness, which is mogroside V extracted from monk fruit and supplied by New Zealand-based Biovittoria. We tried several sips of the Orange Dream flavor of Flatbelly and were pleasantly surprised with way the sweetener blended with the shake. We were also able to taste monk fruit sweetener by itself as a pure powder, and again, were very impressed with its lack of bitterness and aftertaste. We should note that a fruity taste was noticeable in the sweetener which might alter its ability to blend well with non-fruit beverages.

Monk fruit has in the past been hindered by price and quality issues, but it would seem that anything that blends this nicely in a beverage would create enough demand to outweigh and eventually settle any supply-related issues.

At many booths on the show floor, concept beverages were used to demonstrate how functional ingredients can be added to refreshment beverages without negatively affecting flavor or mouthfeel. DSM offered the following concept beverages at its booth:

• A blueberry-pomegranate juice fortified with a blend of vitamins and minerals that belong to DSM’s “Beauty from Within” nutritional platform 

• A lemonade containing 50 mg of EGCG (Teavigo) per 8 oz. (240 mL)

• A water for healthy aging containing 30 mg of EGCG (Teavigo), 5 mg of Resveratrol (resVida), and 10 percent DV of Vitamin E per 8 oz. (240 mL).

• a visual performance beverage containing 2.5 mg of Lutein (FloraGLO), 0.5 mg Zeaxanthin (OPTISHARP) and Vitamins (C, B3, B6, B12 at 10 percent DV) per 8 oz. (240 mL). 

• i-flex powder beverage for joint health, which delivers 2.5g i-flex patented rosehip powder per 8 oz serving.

BevNet’s coverage of this year’s SupplyExpo is sponsored by DSM Nutritional Products. To learn more about DSM’s Quali-Blends: health benefit solutions in a nutrient blend visit http://www.pourontheprofits.com



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