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Firmenich ties up with Senomyx to offer 50% sugar reduction

By Elaine Watson , 01-Feb-2010

Flavours giant Firmenich and biotech firm Senomyx are uniting to commercialise a taste enhancer claimed to magnify sugar’s sweetness so much that manufacturers can cut it by 50% without flavour loss.

California-based Senomyx uses biological screening techniques to evaluate millions of molecules to identify which substances bind to specific taste receptors. The approach builds on work by scientists who have cloned human taste receptors for sweet, bitter and umami tastes,
Any substance that binds and activates sweet taste receptors, for example, will send a signal to the brain that we are eating something sweet, whether it is actually sweet or not. Unlike sweeteners, for example, the taste enhancer in question - dubbed ‘S6973’ - does not have a sweet taste of its own.
However, “taste tests have shown that S6973 enhanced the sweet taste of yogurt, cereal and cookie prototypes, as well as powdered and other beverages”, said the company.
The tie-up follows the two firms’ recent collaboration to develop novel ingredients to enhance the taste and block the bitterness of sweeteners including sucralose and Rebaudioside-A (derived from the stevia leaf).
Senomyx chief executive Kent Snyder said: “S6973 is a unique flavour ingredient that can help manufacturers provide a significant reduction in the sugar content of their products without compromising on taste.”
Under the deal, Firmenich will have exclusive rights to commercialise selected Senomyx sweet enhancers worldwide in several (undisclosed) product categories. Research costs will be shared, while Firmenich will also pay Senomyx a licence fee and royalties on sales of products developed during the collaboration.

Separately, Senomyx has also identified more than 160 enhancers of salt (sodium chloride) and potassium chloride, which are now being optimised to increase their potency, said the firm.

Work is also progressing on substances able to cool the mouth “much more effectively” than menthol, WS-3, and other cooling agents, said the firm.
Taste tests had also demonstrated that its bitter blockers could “provide statistically significant reductions in the bitterness of a variety of product prototypes and food ingredients”. These included tea, soya protein, cocoa, menthol, Reb-A and the intense sweeteners Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) and saccharin, said the firm.