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Sweetened foods occupy a large portion of the space on grocery store shelves worldwide. Products ranging from cookies to soft drinks are available to satisfy the consumer’s desire for sweetness. Nutritive sweeteners include sucrose, corn syrups, dextrose, and honey. These sweeteners play other important roles in foods as well. For example, they provide texture, stability, and color. However, increasing concerns about obesity, dental caries, and diabetes as well as the cost of these sweeteners have caused food processors to look for other types of sweetening agents.
There are several approved and several unapproved, nonnutritive, alternative sweeteners. Some are synthetic, and some are found in nature and isolated and purified for use in the food industry. One of the earliest and most widely known synthetic sweeteners is saccharin, which was developed more than a century ago and first used in food products during the early 1900s. Although its use has sparked controversy and debate over the years, it continues to be added to food products throughout the world. Since the introduction of saccharin, the quest for low-cost, effective, alternative sweetening agents has continued in many research laboratories. Many published reports, ranging from discussions on toxicology and carcinogenicity to chemical properties and applications of both approved and unapproved sweetening agents, are readily available.