Drinks giant looks to tagatose

Related tags Nutrition Soft drink

Tagatose developer Spherix says that global drinks manufacturer
PepsiCo is exploring the use of the sweetener in several products,
including beverages.

Good news for biotech firm Spherix today. The tagatose developer says that global drinks manufacturer PepsiCo is exploring the use of the sweetener in several products, including beverages. At the same time, the Australian and New Zealand foods regulatory authority has recommended the approval of the low-calorie, full-bulk sweetener in a variety of products.

Denmark's Arla Foods, Spherix's licensee for food and beverage uses of the natural sweetener, finally launched tagatose to the food market in April, after completing its first tagatose production plant. Spherix is to get royalties on all sales.

PepsiCo has apparently been obtaining tagatose since it first became available and using it to formulate various blended sodas and carbonated frozen novelty products. Larry Gabbonsky, PepsiCo's head of information, confirmed reports of PepsiCo's interest in tagatose in a conversation with Spherix CEO Dr Gilbert V. Levin although he would not comment on recent press articles that indicate product release could be as early as this summer, according to Spherix.

PepsiCo has filed two patent applications (October 31, 2002, and December 26, 2002) for a wide variety of uses of tagatose in soda formulations, added Spherix. PepsiCo's use of the sweetener would be of considerable significance for the company.

Spherix also said today that the regulatory Foods Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has recommended the approval of tagatose as a novel food. In its May 21, 2003, Draft Assessment, FSANZ commented: "There are no public health and safety concerns associated with the use of D-tagatose as proposed."

The proposed uses include breakfast cereals, carbonated diet soft drinks, non-carbonated diet soft drinks, low fat and fat free ice cream, low fat frozen dairy desserts, diet/health bars, diet soft confectionery and special purpose foods/meal replacements for which a daily per capita consumption of 15 grams per day was allowed.

Spherix claims that the bulk sweetener tastes virtually like table sugar, being far superior to other low-calorie sweeteners. In addition, because it does not cause a rise in blood sugar, tagatose is safe for use by people with diabetes, fulfilling a long-felt need for this rapidly increasing group of the world's population. Unlike table sugar, tagatose does not promote tooth decay, which enhances its potential for foods and sodas. It has pre-biotic properties that promote healthy digestion, making it useful in functional food applications, such as health bars and other medicinal foods and drinks.

Dr Levin said: "Both of these developments could be very important to the future of tagatose. Depending on the particular uses, PepsiCo could open a significant market by itself. The FSANZ recommendation brings tagatose to the Pacific Rim, and the large doses allowed for the products proposed should have a major impact on the volume of the sweetener used in those countries, and, eventually, elsewhere."

Spherix is continuing its arbitration with Arla Foods, which it claims delayed production.

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