Reduce the pain before reducing sugar!
Pulished on Nov. 30, 2019
In the past two years, the market for sugar substitutes has greatly increased. With the rise of sweeteners such as stevia, Luo Han Guo and sucralose, there is also a problem that cannot be ignored-how to overcome the taste defects of sugar substitutes? For example, stevia is a non-nutritive, natural, zero-calorie, high-intensity sweetener, but its bitter and metallic taste makes many people uncomfortable. Luo Han Guo is another natural sweetener, but its citrus aftertaste can also lead to taste defects, which is not what consumers want.
In addition to sweeteners, there are many ingredients with health claims and functional claims, such as herbs extract, plant proteins, etc., which are more or less defective. Although consumers expect healthier and more functional products, they are unwilling to compromise on the taste, and the product has to add additional sugar to modify the taste, but it also contradicts health.
In order to understand the knot, MycoTechnology, a U.S.-based startup founded in 2013, proposed a new solution in 2016: the use of the mycelium system in mushrooms became the ClearTaste bitter blocker, "the first in the world "Natural and organic general bitter blocker" can balance the bitterness and astringency of the product, thereby reducing the addition of sugar.
So far, the company has raised a total of USD 82.6 million (nearly RMB 500 million) in financing. So why can block the bitter taste achieve the purpose of reducing sugar? What kind of dark technology does ClearTaste use to "reduce pain"? Can the "bitter reducer" from mushrooms really make food and drink healthier? Let's start with the role of sugar.
The world is reducing sugar but doesn't want to sacrifice taste
Sugar is found in almost everything we eat, including bread, sauces, drinks, snacks, snacks, candy, protein, and even meat. Most people are familiar with the sweetness of sugar, but its role in our food and beverage products goes far beyond sweetening. Sugar's more important role is to mask the taste. In order to cover the unpleasant taste of the food itself, such as bitterness, astringency, sourness, metallic taste or other off-flavors, sugar is usually added to food and beverages for flavoring, and sugar is a good example in coffee.
But when we started to use sugar substitutes, we found that there were many inevitable problems with these ingredients-either they were unnatural, they had taste defects, or both. Stevia, for example, increases the bitterness and metallic taste of the product.
Although consumers nowadays support brands that choose healthy ingredients, the biggest obstacle to attracting repeat customers to health products is taste. No matter how good the product claims to be in health, few people will buy it back if it doesn't taste good. Consumers want to create products that are both healthy and enjoyable, and use healthier ingredients without compromising taste.
To this end, the food industry has made many innovative technological breakthroughs. For example, in 2016, Nestlé developed a "new sugar" that relies on changing the sugar structure and accelerating the decomposition rate of sugar in the mouth to achieve the effect of less sugar but unchanged sweetness. Based on this technology, Nestle launched Milkybar Wowsomes, a chocolate bar with 30% sugar reduction last year.
Firmenich has also developed a patented product called SucroGEM with Senomyx, which can amplify the perception of sweetness of taste receptor cells and can be used to reduce the sugar content in food and beverages. Experiments show that the milk with 2% sucrose can reach the sweetness level of milk with 4% sucrose after adding SucroGEM.
MycoTechnology changed its perspective: adding sugar is to cover up the bad taste. If it can remove the bad taste, wouldn't it be delicious and reduce sugar? Based on this idea, MycoTechnology developed ClearTaste bitterness inhibitor derived from edible shiitake mushroom extract.