Senomyx CEO hints at PepsiCo interest in enhancer to cut HFCS

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fructose corn syrup, High-fructose corn syrup

Bowl of Sugar
Bowl of Sugar
Flavour ingredients house Senomyx has hinted at PepsiCo’s interest in its work on developing an enhancer to reduce high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) levels in beverages and foods by up to 33%.

CEO Kent Snyder told analyst Dalton Chandler (Needham and Company) on an investor call yesterday that the Californian firm’s collaborative relationship with PepsiCo was strong, and that it had received a milestone payment last quarter for its new sucrose enhancer S9632.

“They certainly have an interest in that sucrose enhancer, and as I mentioned we are making progress on the enhancer side of HFCS, which is a high interest of PepsiCo as well," ​he said.

Snyder had just announced Senomyx’s fourth quarter (Q4) and full-year 2011 results – a turnover of $31.3m (€23.6m) for the year ending December 31 ($28.7m: 2010) – and he said that the company was optimising and assess promising ‘enhancers’ of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

“During the past year, we have identified enhancers that enabled up to a 33% HFCS reduction, while retaining the preferred sweetness profile and taste test,”​ he said.

Reducing HFCS ‘welcome’

With a worldwide market worth $7.6bn, HFCS is widely used in beverages and beverage concentrates, but is also used in baked goods, yogurts and other foods.

Since HFCS had the same number of calories as sugar, a 33% reduction represented a “very meaningful effect”​, Snyder said.

“Reducing HFCS in these products without altering taste would be welcome by consumers and manufacturers,”​ he added.

Snyder said that 2011 had been a “pivotal year”​ for Senomyx due to commercial launches of branded products containing its ‘Sweet Taste’ modulators: for sucrose reduction (S6973) and reduction in concentration of sucrose (S2383).

“There are no other products on the market like S6973, which has no sweet taste on its own, and allows manufacturers to reduce sucrose in the products by up to 50%, while maintaining the taste of a full complement of this sugar,”​ Snyder said.

This meant calorie reductions and cost savings, Snyder added, and he said that multinationals were now planning their first product launches using S6973, although large firms were naturally protective of international brands and only reformulated after careful consideration and consumer testing.

Explaining market uptake, Senomyx president and COO, John Poyhonen, said: “For example, a food manufacturer might begin using S6973 in a major brand in one country in Latin America. After a successful market introduction, the reformulated product can then be launched into other Latin American countries and expanded to additional geographies where regulatory approval exists.”

Salt taste blocker

Where blue chip players led, the rest of the industry were often “fast followers”​, Poyhonen said, before revealing that Senomyx was now in the process of commercialising S6973 with top- and mid-tier clients in the US, Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia.

Spoonable and powdered and ready-to-drink (RTD) dairy products, along with RTD coffee and tea products were initial product categories targeted, he said.

Snyder said that Senomyx’s programme to reduce sodium levels in beverages and foods – whilst retaining salty tastes desirable to consumers – was also an important focus, with the firm working to discover specific proteins as receptors or co-factors responsible for the salt taste.

“Senomyx has assembled a proprietary database of proteins found in taste buds, and progress is being made exploring the role of a number of these proteins that may be involved in salt taste perception,”​ he said.

One new advancement was the development of a salt taste blocker that could be used as a tool to help discover the receptor involved in the salt taste perception, Snyder added.

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