California-based biotech firm Senomyx has developed S6973, a taste enhancer it claims can magnify the sweetness of sugar to such an extent that manufacturers can reduce it by 50% without any loss of flavour.
Building on work by scientists who have successfully cloned human taste receptors for sweet, bitter and umami tastes, Senomyx uses biological screening techniques to evaluate millions of molecules to identify which substances bind to specific taste receptors.
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, S6973 does not have a sweet taste of its own. "Taste tests have shown that S6973 enhanced the sweet taste of yoghurt, cereal and cookie prototypes, as well as powdered and other beverages," said the company.