Since the US Food and Drug Administration’s (US FDA) 2008 acknowledgement of stevia’s “self-determined” GRAS status, numerous flavor and ingredient companies have pursued stevia offerings and stevia-friendly flavor solutions. The natural sweetener’s tendency to impart bitterness has been the focus of several companies’ flavor efforts, which have been widely reported here and elsewhere. Recently, P&F magazine asked Varuzhan Abelyan—corporate vice president of science and technology for PureCircle and a rebaudioside A (reb-A) pioneer—about the various complications attending formulations incorporating stevia, labeling issues and more. Abelyan will be among the key presenters during the National Association of Flavors and Food-Ingredient Systems meeting on May 28 at the Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center in Somerset, New Jersey (www.naffs.org).
P&F: How is stevia different from other sweeteners in terms of taste and barriers to flavor formulation?
Abelyan: As with any other high intensity sweeteners (HIS), stevia-based sweeteners can’t be used as a mechanical substitute of sucrose and will require certain flavoring solutions for use in different food categories. It has to be noted that unlike many other HIS, stevia sweeteners possess a more “sucroselike” taste profile, which make them less challenging to find proper flavor solutions for each food and beverage group. Also, it is natural, pH- and thermo-stable, non-allergenic and has no [known] side effects. However, stevia sweeteners may display some bitterness at higher concentrations levels. Overcoming this issue is already on the agenda of the all main flavor houses … and most of them have already reported promising initial results.
P&F: How does the use of stevia affect processing?
Abelyan: Each major food category has its own technological challenges when it comes to the use of HIS. Nevertheless, it has to be noted that in this instance stevia sweeteners demonstrate much better features compared to some other HIS—particularly high temperature stability, pH stability, photostability, water solubility, etc.
Read our extended conversation in the August issue of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine.