New Class of Natural Sweeteners to Consider

by Christine Hronec

While, there is nothing new under the sun, consumers cannot seem to get enough of natural products in the dietary supplement market space. However, when it comes to formulating a naturally sweetened product, the formulator and brand manager both acknowledge the technical challenges that come along with getting a natural product to taste good at an economical price.

Any skilled formulator will acknowledge that there are very few natural sweeteners to select from that can achieve similar flavor profiles as artificially flavored products. The most commonly marketed natural sweeteners are stevia, fructose, and evaporated cane juice. Other natural sweeteners used less frequently include erythritol, xylitol, and luo han guo. Flavor profiles are primarily accomplished by blending together 2 or more of these ingredients to create a palatable finished product. Recently, I came across a new class of natural sweeteners that caught my attention at a trade show: Oligosaccharides.

This ingredient can be found in blends by new companies trying to trademark natural sweeteners similar to how spenda is a trademark for a maltodextrin and sucralose blend. However for product development, where the primary goal is a great tasting product at an affordable price, we are solely interested in the chemistry behind what makes a natural product taste good and not the brand name. An oligosaccharide is nothing new; however its application as a natural sweetener for dietary supplements is something new and exciting to consider.

It is known as a simple sugar or a saccharide polymer with a small number of component sugars. These short chains of fructose molecules are naturally found in vegetables such as artichokes, leeks, onions, and asparagus. In addition, they remain unaltered after passing through the digestive system, allowing them to have excellent prebiotic activity when they reach the colon by acting as a substrate for beneficial bacteria species to grow. This ingredient alone will not be the end all be all in developing a naturally sweetened product, however if carefully formulated with the correct blend of natural sweeteners, it can definitely boost flavor and support digestive health while maintaining the “natural” label claim.

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