- Sweet Green Fields and Tate & Lyle have introduced a glycosylated stevia extract called Zolesse that may be labeled as a natural flavor under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's definition.
- The ingredient, which is Non-GMO Project Verified, helps food and beverage makers deliver products that meet consumer demand for clean label ingredients at a better price cost compared to alternatives, according to a release.
- Zolesse is formulated to work with other stevia products and can help reduce bitterness and provide a more sugar-like taste, the companies said. The ingredient also can be used with monk fruit extract and sugar to make them taste sweeter. "Zolesse creates no application hurdle, since it has a negligible effect on the original taste of the products,” Mel Jackson, chief science officer for Sweet Green Fields, said in a statement.
Zolesse is available in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia and any country where flavors are found to be safe by the Flavor Extract Manufacturers Association's Generally Recognized as Safe assessment program. Expert panels from FEMA have evaluated ingredients for GRAS status since the early 1960s and submit information from their reviews to FDA.
For the U.S. regulatory agency, "natural flavor" or "natural flavoring" on a product label relates to a list of natural essences or extractives obtained from plants and substances "whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional." If a sweetener is determined to be GRAS, it does not need FDA approval as a food additive. While high-purity steviol glycosides may be added to food products marketed and sold in the U.S., FDA does not permit stevia leaf or crude stevia extracts to be used in food since they are not considered GRAS.
Stevia is more expensive than artificial sweeteners and not everyone likes its bitter taste, so companies such as PureCircle, Pyure and Apura Ingredients have been coming up with branded extracts and other products made from different types of stevia to accommodate varying preferences and uses. Cargill came out with its own branded EverSweet stevia product in 2016.
The natural sweetener has several assets. It's about 200 times sweeter than sugar, contains no calories, is easy to produce and can be grown just about anywhere. Also, as a more natural product, it meets requirements for clean labeling and transparency. Companies reformulating or launching new products with stevia include PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Danone, Kraft Heinz, Nestle and Unilever.
This new stevia ingredient is the latest development to come from Sweet Green Fields and Tate & Lyle. These two companies have been partnering since 2017 when Tate & Lyle became the exclusive global distributor for Sweet Green Fields stevia ingredients portfolio. Tate & Lyle subsequently bought a 15% stake in Sweet Green Fields last year and has an option to acquire the rest of the company. The partnership is looking to develop trendy products and creating a stevia ingredient that can be categorized as a natural flavor fits that definition.
However, not all manufacturers are keen on using stevia in their products because of its tendency to taste bitter. Petal, a sparkling beverage made with rose water, recently took the ingredient out of its formulation following customer complaints and replaced it with organic agave. Coca-Cola had started adding stevia to its Glaceau Vitaminwater in 2014, but quickly went back to sugar after hearing complaints about the taste.
If Zolesse can deliver less of stevia's bitterness at a better price point than the competition as the companies claim, the ingredient could be of interest to manufacturers of snacks, baked goods, confectionery, soft drinks, juices and any other products where a more natural sweetener and cleaner label would be attractive elements to consumers.