Stevia enjoys success in many reduced-sugar beverage products today, but one of the remaining obstacles is concentrates. At March’s Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA, Cargill (Minneapolis) introduced a stevia solution that can be used in a range of concentrate products, such as foodservice fountain drinks, energy shots, alcoholic drinks, and fruit, dairy, or coffee syrups. The new sweetening system combines the company’s ClearFlo flavor modifier and its EverSweet stevia sweetener (comprising fermentation-derived rebaudiosides M and D), and it stays stable in concentrates.
At the show, Andrew Ohmes, Cargill’s global director for high-intensity sweeteners, explained why concentrates are so challenging for stevia. “It’s difficult to make a concentrate with stevia, especially Reb M,” he said, in part because “it’s just not stable enough to last long enough or even to go into solution at all.”
The new EverSweet + ClearFlo sweetening system offers numerous benefits. First, it improves stevia’s solubility and stability in concentrates and syrups, and it promotes faster dissolution. Secondly, it helps improve flavor, including by reducing the sweet linger stevia can bring. It can even be used to mask bitterness and off-notes of other ingredients in a formulation, such as vitamins, minerals, or caffeine. “Even think about beverages…with plant proteins,” said Alyssa Leyva, product line advisor, starches and sweeteners, North America, Cargill, at the show. “It helps to mask those off-notes you might get from proteins or other ingredients in formulations.”
Not only that, Ohmes pointed out that EverSweet + ClearFlo benefits salt reduction. For instance, in products like ketchup where formulators might try replacing some salt with potassium chloride at the same time they’re reducing sugar content, EverSweet + ClearFlo can mask potassium chloride’s metallic taste.
Finally, said Leyva, EverSweet + ClearFlo can strengthen the taste of “characterizing flavors” like orange, allowing those flavors to “pop” while also enabling companies to reduce the amount of flavor they need to use, cutting costs.
Using stevia to reduce the sugar content of fountain beverages is an exciting prospect for foodservice providers, especially quick-service restaurants aiming to make their menus healthier and cleaner-label. Cargill points out that ClearFlo is derived from a botanical extract and labels as a “natural flavor,” while EverSweet labels as “stevia sweetener.”
This solution “opens up this market where stevia never really has been able to play,” said Ohmes. “And if you think of restaurants like Panera Bread, Chipotle, they make a lot of promises [to their customers], and they take that promise on to the fountain beverage as well.”
Cargill calls this a “first of its kind” solution. It is also a simple-to-use, drop-in ingredient because Cargill already predetermined the most effective combination of EverSweet and ClearFlo that would work for most products. “The exciting thing is—this is what makes it revolutionary—that it’s actually one ingredient, so you don’t need to waste the time or energy to mix the two different ingredients together,” Leyva added. “It’s one solution, all in one, and easy for manufacturers to drop in. We did a lot of work trying to customize to figure out what is that optimal solution—prototyping, feedback from customers—and this is where we landed.”
There are other benefits, too. “Unlike standalone Reb M sweeteners, EverSweet + ClearFlo dissolves in water at ambient temperatures—no heating required,” the company’s press release states. “For beverage processing facilities without heating capabilities, this is a significant advance. Those same characteristics offer benefits to longtime stevia users, too, as the sweetener system’s near-instantaneous dissolution enables faster manufacturing times.”