The food giant Cargill says it has sweetened the diet soda dilemma by introducing a new approach to formulating better-tasting diet beverages, a system called TasteWise. The product of seven years of research, TasteWise and its texurizing blends, which will be commercialized as Trilisse, rely on a deepened understanding of mouthfeel, taking flavor, sweetness and texture into account simultaneously.
“When you modify one of these you throw the others out of whack,” said Andy del Rosal, team leader of Cargill’s North American beverage applications scientists. “We’ve really come up with a way to change the way the industry feels about mouthfeel.”
Del Rosal says the traditional way of measuring the texture of a beverage is with rheology, which is the study of a liquid’s flow, consumer panels and bench top experimentation, but that the tongue can actually tell things about a beverage that these methods cannot measure.
“The measurements all look alike but your tongue can actually tell the difference,” he says.
The tongue tests the mouthfeel of a beverage by rolling it around, and del Rosal says that just testing thickness was not helping them understand mouthfeel any better.
“The epiphany was to look at lubrication instead of viscosity and thickness,” he says.
Cargill’s team used tribology, which is the study of lubrication and wear of surfaces in relative motion, to measure the differences in mouthfeel between regular and diet beverages. It allowed them to see the mouthfeel gap between diet and traditional drinks.
“Once you can see there is a difference than you can begin to close that gap,” del Rosal said.
The traditional way of reducing calories in a product is replacing the sugar with artificial sweeteners, but they can produce slightly off-note tastes. However, according to Cargill, their TasteWise system can help get rid of these in concert with their Truvia rebiana, one of a host of stevia-extract sweeteners to hit the market in recent years.
Jeff Page, the Vice President of Cargill Beverage Category and Enterprise Marketing, says this development was partly fueled by increased consumer interest in healthier products across the board, as well as new policy initiatives. Page says almost 75 percent of consumers are looking for simple changes to make their diet healthier, and are also more likely to change their purchasing choices based on the nutrition facts label. But taste is still the major factor, which is why Cargill has developed TasteWise.
“Taste always wins,” says Page. “And there are a lot of challenges when you reduce the sugar and calories of a product.”
But Page and del Rosal say Cargill is uniquely equipped to deal with the calorie reduction problem.
“Cargill is the only company that can look at all three factors holistically,” says del Rosal. “We can help with any part of the taste triangle.”