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Optimising the quality of reduced calorie soft drinks.

Traditionally, sweetness and taste in soft drinks are achieved by combining various sugars, flavours and bodying agents, with or without carbon dioxide.

In recent years, the demand for zero-calorie soft drinks has been met with the use of sugar substitutes such as intense sweeteners. However, the organoleptic properties of soft drinks made with these products can be unsatisfactory: often they lack good taste, body and mouthfeel. In order to improve these properties different formulations that blend various intense sweeteners have been tried, but without notable success. The use of intense sweeteners can also produce a variety of 'off-tastes' such as bitter and sharp, metallic flavours.

According to many nutrition and health authorities, consumption of zero-calorie soft drinks may represent a health risk, especially for young consumers. Figure 1 shows the different amounts of intense sweetener necessary to reach the same sweetness as a 10 percent sucrose solution, ie, 10 percent equisweetness (ES), there is a risk of exceeding the maximum Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for a person weighing 60kg.

Finally, the use of intense sweeteners in acidified drinks can create instability problems during storage.

Given the above considerations - which, from a consumer view point, are crucial - perhaps the objective should not be zero-calorie soft drinks but, rather, significantly reduced-calorie soft drinks that could benefit from a combination of intense sweetener, for calorie reduction, and simple sugars, for the control and quality of the organoleptic properties in the finished product.

Scope of the Study

At Cerestar's Euro Centre Food in Vilvoorde, Belgium, a study has been conducted to develop the reduced-calorie soft drink concept. Trial formulations tested included 3 to 5 percent of different simple sugars (carbohydrates) in combination with different concentrations of intense sweeteners, providing a 70 percent and 50 percent calorie reduction when compared with a 10 percent sugar-based soft drink.

The first phase of the study was to determine the optimum amounts of intense sweetener and carbohydrate, with respect to sweeteners and taste quality. To accomplish this, trials, with various levels of different intense sweeteners in combination with 3 to 5 percent carbohydrates, were evaluated. After establishing this optimal amount, trials were run to confirm organoleptic performance of selected blends in soft drinks.

The different trials used, as carbohydrate source, a range of glucose syrups from 40 to 97 DE (dextrose equivalent), including some fructose-containing syrups, and, as intense sweeteners, acesulfame K, aspartame, cyclamate and saccharin.


It has been established that the relative sweetness of intense sweeteners is higher at lower concentrations. The consequences of this finding are most interesting. A mixture of different intense sweeteners at low concentrations is more efficient than one single intense sweetener at a higher concentration. In addition, there is a synergy between the simple sugars and the intense sweeteners, such that less of the latter need be included in the formulation.

The amounts of each intense sweetener, expressed in milligrams per litre, needed to make various carbohydrate solutions just as sweet as a 10 percent sucrose solution are given in Figure 2. These findings indicate that, with the exception of aspartame, the formulations based on a combination of 3 percent or 5 percent simple sugars and one intense sweetener, present the same health risk as mentioned above, ie, the consumption of more than 1 litre a day of such a soft drink would exceed the ADI limit. It is therefore necessary to use combinations of more than one intense sweetener, which allows lower total concentrations, to avoid this problem.

It has been possible to design a computer model which calculates the amount of multiple intense sweetener needed, together with 3 percent of carbohydrate to obtain the best end-product. The model contained the ADI and taste constraints, thereby automatically eliminating those combinations which were unsatisfactory in these respects.

Selected blends of intense sweeteners from this computer model have been used together with 3 percent of a glucose syrup containing 9 percent fructose in two carbonated soft drink formulations, a clear lemon and a cloudy orange-type. All blends gave a round, full bodied, sugary-type flavour without any unpleasant off or after-tastes in these two soft drink applications.


In spite of the current trend in marketing zero-calorie soft drinks, this study makes clear that there are various disadvantages to such products while demonstrating the many beneficial factors of the multi-sweetener/calorie-reduced concept.

Based on the concentration effect of intense sweeteners, simultaneous use of carbohydrates and several intense sweeteners eliminates the problems of poor taste quality and mouthfeel, without exceeding ADI limits. And, the viability of the calorie-reduced concept has been shown using an economically interesting carbohydrate source.

At this time, harmonisation of intense sweetener regulations inside the EEC is under discussion. In some European countries the combination of carbohydrates and intense sweeteners is not covered by present regulations but is currently under consideration.

Soft drink manufacturers would do well to monitor upcoming legislative developments in order that the industry be allowed to benefit from the numerous advantages of the combined use of intense sweeteners and carbohydrates.
Intense Amount for one litre ADI Off-taste
sweeteners mg/l limit limit
 E.S = 10% (l) (mg/l)
saccharin (ca) 495 150 100
cyclamate (ca) 4200 660 -
aspartame (ca) 650 2400 -
acesulfame-K (ca) 1060 540 150
fig 1: Intense sweeteners and ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake)

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Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Previous Article:Ingredients and raw materials.
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