We have the technology – the key to sweetness exists
Tetra Pak provide some insight into their ground-breaking tech designed to keep our favourite beverages sweet and delicious, but less of the sugar
There has been an abundance of attention around reduced sugar drinks, not least because of the much-discussed sugar tax. But juice trails its counterparts in this space.
Tetra Pak, together with Sumol+Compal, has developed technology that can reduce the sugar content in juice to the exact requirements of the brand using a fermentation process. The fermented de-sugared juice is a true ‘clean label’ product with no additional ingredients.
This innovative solution can reduce sugar in juice while maintaining its taste profile, colour, mouthfeel, and nutritional content. Using fermentation, it is possible to remove the sugar while keeping all the benefits of the juice, plus fermentation is trendy in the added value category. Indeed, almost a third of the USD1.5 billion invested in alternative proteins last year went towards companies using fermentation.
According to recent research from Mintel, there is a thirst from consumers globally for this type of product. In Spain, 75% of juice consumers cited sugar as a reason for limiting the amount of juices & smoothies they drink. Meanwhile in China, 43% of juice consumers consider sugar content an important factor in choosing juice drinks. In the UK, 42% of juice buyers say that health benefits would encourage them to spend more on juice drinks.
- Can you explain, in layman’s terms, the kind of technology being used to reduce the sugar content in these juices?
We are using fermentation, a natural biological process to remove sugar while retaining all the benefits of the juice. The secret lies in combining a unique yeast strain with the optimal process and design parameters so that all sugar is removed, and re-blended with standard juice to achieve the desired final product.
- How is this technology applied to achieve the desired effect?
Step 1. Fermentation:
- Complete sugar removal down to 0% is achieved with optimal process and design parameters in combination with a unique yeast strain which gives consistent product quality – no off flavors, nor increasing the natural acidity present in a fruit juice, thus keeping fruit juice flavour and fundamental nutritional value.
- By products: the yeast that is added in fermentation tanks is removed in the clarifier
- By products: the alcohol which is created during fermentation is removed in the de-alcoholisation unit
Step 2. Clarifier:
- Removes the yeast cells to stop fermentation process
- Secure product quality (no rupturing of yeast cells, to avoid sensory impact, very low pulp / turbidity reduction)
- The yeast size, shape and floculation behaviour, make it possible to remove the yeast while only a minor amount of juice pulp is removed, keeping the juice nutritional and maintaining its sensorial profile
- The process design does not break the yeast cell walls, meaning that there is no release of off flavour (yeasty) compounds into the juice
Step 3. De-alcoholisation unit
- Removing alcohol in a gentle way while keeping juice taste and aromas
- The quantity is completely controlled
- The product after the de-alcoholisation unit: a valuable ingredient of 0% desugared juice
Step 4. Product formulation:
- The final sugar level in the product is controlled by blending the 0% desugared juice with 100% juice in a normal juice line after the fermentation process
- With this production line solution, we are able to keep the number of ingredients to a minimum, while maintaining good taste, colour, mouthfeel as well as nutritional content
- Were there any R&D challenges? How were these overcome?
Some of the challenges faced when trying to find a refined process to produce de-sugarised juice included:
- Watering down and adding low-calorie sweeteners meant that there would be a lower juice content and no increased nutritional density
- Removing sugars using filtration technologies didn’t achieve the desired sensory result – it resulted in changes to the juice matrix and impacted nutritional value
- Enzymatic conversion of sugars to a by-product had some impact on sensory result and may not be perceived as a natural process
- Multiple yeast strains had to be tested to find the optimal solution
- Can you tell me more about the fermentation process? What method does your company use to achieve your desired result?
We decided to use fermentation as it is a natural biological process that can remove sugar while maintaining the taste profile, colour, mouthfeel and nutritional content.
First, the yeast is added to the juice. Once this has been done, the yeast is then removed by a clarifier, before the alcohol is then removed in a de-alcoholisation unit. This produces the de-sugarised juice and there is then the possibility to re-blend this 0% sugar juice with 100% juice to achieve the desired product, such as 50% sugar juice.
The specific yeast strain used was selected after screening dozens of strains, and is used in various traditionally fermented foods such as wine or cider.
- Can you tell me anything about the patents on this technology? Once the word gets out, how do you foresee other companies making use of this kind of technology? Or is that not possible?
This technology solution is similar to our revolutionised JNSD line that Tetra Pak launched last year, which was a new combination of existing technology (UV + filter). As such, the de-sugarised juice method is a combination of existing technologies, albeit in a new and unique way.
Due to the fact that these technologies are already in use, it is not possible to patent. However, in order to achieve the desired quality and benefit from the expert knowledge developed during trials, customers need to combine equipment from Tetra Pak with the unique yeast strain from Sumol + Compal.