Lab Technology: Helping Food and Beverage Companies Create Healthier Artificial Sweeteners

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Artificial sweeteners were considered good for you until they weren’t. Food and Beverage companies have an opportunity to invest and discover novel, more healthy alternatives, with the help of modern lab technology.
Image source: Flickr user frankieleon

Artificial sweeteners were once considered the answer to an age-old question among food scientists and lovers alike: is there a way you can eat your cake and have it too? With artificial sweeteners, food and beverage companies believed that they could mimic the taste of sugar, while avoiding the negative side effects of metabolizing sugar, namely weight gain. Furthermore, for diabetics and others who must avoid sugar for health reason, artificial sweeteners proved revolutionary in helping to control their diet without sacrificing taste. As Allison Sylvetsky and her colleagues discuss, food and beverage companies used sweeteners to create new lines of “diet” and “light” beverages, while the substances also came “to replace added sugars in various foods, including yogurts, puddings, baked goods, and ice cream…” among many others.1

Now when does the solution become a problem? To begin with, the Harvard Health Blog discussed that “all sweeteners are not created equal,” and most interestingly, the ways in which the human body and brain can respond to the presence of these substances can be complex. For example, Dr. Ludwig who was interviewed for the blog post said, “Non-nutritive sweeteners are far more potent than table sugar…A miniscule amount produces a sweet taste…[But] overstimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes.”2 Eventually, foods that are not so intensely sweet (i.e. fruit, vegetables) are not tolerated.

Moreover, beyond the psychological and taste issues associated with using artificial sweeteners, food and beverage companies are also experiencing backlash from customers who doubt the safety of these non-nutritional chemical compounds.3 In this milieu, food and beverage companies would greatly benefit from the discovery of novel, potentially natural alternatives to sugar.

Looking to the Future—and the Improvement of Sweeteners

Food and beverage companies should invest in discovering new compounds that use ingredients that will not scare customers while maintaining the low-calorie or no-calorie values of current sweeteners. In order to do so, however, companies will need to study the various sweeteners and determine how compounds can be altered or mimicked in order to develop novel products.

To support these efforts, food and beverage companies can use technology-based software such as digital notebooks and modeling/simulation tools.

  • Formulation tools: Food and beverage companies should also invest in new compounds using formulation technologies. As chemists create new libraries and researchers become more and more familiar with the components of a successful sweetener, the same chemical principles can be applied toward developing newer molecular structures, all of which could be recorded in the digital notebook.

In general, this is an exciting time for food and beverage companies. Though customers are becoming more concerned about the types of foods and chemicals that enter their bodies, this curiosity and interest does not have to be lamented. Instead, these “barriers” should be seen as opportunities for food and beverage companies to become innovative and avoid stagnation.

To determine how efficient and innovative lab technology, such as the BIOVIA Notebook and CPG solution offerings, can help your organization, please contact us today.

  1. “Artificial sweetener use among children: epidemiology, recommendations, metabolic outcomes, and future directions,” December 2011, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3220878/
  2. “Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost,” July 16, 2012, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030
  3. “Diet Pepsi Dumps Aspartame as Consumer Backlash Hurts Sales,” April 24, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-24/diet-pepsi-dumps-aspartame-after-consumer-backlash-hurts-sales

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