05 Jun 2018 --- Tackling diets that can be high in sugar but low in fiber, OptiBiotix has produced SweetBiotix: fibers that are natural, high-intensity sweeteners. The life sciences company has signed an evaluation agreement to explore the potential of the SweetBiotix technology with an unnamed dairy company. The company is said to have an annual turnover of US$10 billion and the SweetBiotix technology is hoped to reduce the sugar content in a range of its dairy products.
“We are pleased to announce the signing of this agreement for SweetBiotix with one of the world's largest dairy companies and such a well-known global brand. This is part of a strategy of working with global partners who have the capability and expertise to manufacture specialty ingredients like SweetBiotix and well-known consumer brands who have the specialist application expertise to incorporate this technology into their own branded breaded, dairy, cereal and beverage consumer products. This approach provides a low-risk way to fully exploit the wide range of opportunities offered by our SweetBiotix technology," says Stephen O’Hara, CEO of OptiBiotix.
The announcement of the agreement follows news that the company raised £1.5 million (US$2 million) to capitalize on new opportunities, such as the commercialization of products.
SweetBiotix: Fibrous sweetener
The company's “zero-calorie,” natural fibers – SweetBiotix – claim to deliver the sweetness of sugar and a heavy dose of fiber, filling a necessary requirement in the nutritional profiles of consumers.
“There are two aspects in terms of nutrition, one is fiber and the second is sugar. Generally speaking, people consume too much sugar and not enough fiber. So, the Western diet has become filled with processed food and is lacking in fiber content. On top of that, flavor is often introduced by adding sugar and fat. So, we set out to create sweet tasting fibers,” O’Hara tells NutritionInsight.
Indeed, a recent Public Health England (PHE) survey reported that fiber was the nutrient most lacking in our diets, with the average “fiber gap” of a person’s diet being 12g per person, per day. The survey also showed that all age groups were consuming higher levels of sugar than recommended.
In this way, a fibrous sweetener could bring a much-needed health halo to an array of products. O’Hara explains further, “We believe that you can create an approach whereby you would have a healthy snack bar which could be green for sugars and green for fibers. We started some development programs about three years ago which aim to create three products. The first is a high-intensity sweetener, similar to Stevia, but without the aftertaste. We achieved that by adding an oligosaccharide chain to stevia glycosides and mogrosides creating a clean tasting high-intensity sweetener with fiber properties.”
“The second approach is where we create fibers made from galacto-oligosaccharide chains. By structuring those chains correctly we can create sweetness. In simple terms, you build galacto-oligosaccharides into chains and so they act like fibers; but have a sweetness of 75 percent of that of sucrose. We have gone through a process of trying to understand the relationship between the structure of the sugars and the sweetness. We have been through five human studies, involving taste tests with expert panels.”
Therefore, “we have two products; a clean tasting high intensity with potential fiber properties as well as a long-chained galacto-oligosaccharide which some sweetness, fiber and prebiotic potential.”
Future steps for SweetBiotix
The dairy company evaluation agreement was signed in light of five successful human taste studies conducted by OptiBiotix. Therefore, the exploration will focus on reducing sugar and boosting fiber in dairy products with the SweetBiotix technology. The agreement essentially grants a non-exclusive license for an evaluation period to explore the potential of the technology for sugar reduction and marks the next step for the company, moving from research to production and application development.
Click to Enlarge“In terms of maintaining a healthy diet, fibers should be introduced into products we would normally eat. Breaded products, cereals, prepared meals, dairy applications and snacks are prime examples that are suitable for fiber enrichment,” says O’Hara.
“Consumer education on the need for fiber is a continuous process. Most people are aware that fibers are good for you and sugar is not. We need to keep reinforcing that message but we also need to make it easy for consumers to adopt that message,” says O’Hara.
“There is no point telling people not to eat unhealthy foods because the temptation toward certain foods is greater than the concern over health. We need to translate the message ‘fiber is good for you, sugar is bad’ into products that contain good fibers without comprising on taste and texture.”
Indeed, there are a range of functional fibers on the market that are suitable for fiber fortification and enrichment of a range of products. These fibers can also elevate products to holding gluten-free or weight-management benefits. You can read more about this in our special report on functional fibers.
In terms of SweetBiotix, a product that can deliver fiber and reduce sugar simultaneously will arguably provide exciting results as OptiBiotix's move into application development unfolds.
By Laxmi Haigh & Lucy Gunn
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