Safely Tucked Away - Wacker Chemie AG

Safely Tucked Away

Health-promoting additives don't always interact harmoniously with the taste of the food they are added to. Cyclodextrins hide the bitter tastes and protect the sensitive substances, ensuring that they are better absorbed by the body.

Vitamins keep living cells young: Linus Pauling, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, was so convinced of their efficacy that he consumed almost 18 grams of pure vitamin C a day. Whether that explains why he lived to be over 90 is debatable, though. One thing is certain: the body cannot function for long without vitamins, minerals or trace elements. And scientists keep discovering new health-promoting ingredients in plants that make the body resistant to environmental stress, prevent certain diseases or even slow the aging process.

The health benefits of green tea, for example, stem from its high catechin content.

Green tea, for example, is reputed to confer health benefits. Its tannins contain catechins, which have antibacterial properties and are capable of neutralizing free-radicals. As well as being anti-inflammatory, catechins are thought to play a role in cancer prevention. "But it's the catechins which make green tea taste very bitter," says Dr. Mark Harrison, director of sales in Asia-Pacific, based in Singapore.

Food companies are thus faced with a dilemma. On one hand, they want to provide more and more of their products, such as soft drinks, with an additional health-promoting benefit, which is why they enrich beverage mixes, for example, with green tea extract. On the other, by adding this functionality, they incorporate the bitter aftertaste. True, the product does contain the desired health promoter, “but of course no consumer wants a thirst quencher that has a bitter taste,” explains Harrison. "Even in functional food, the consumer is concerned first and foremost about taste."

One option is to mask the bitter catechin taste, for example, with more sugar. However, more sugar means more calories, which is sometimes unacceptable for marketing reasons. Another solution is to use additional flavors, but these weigh on costs and can impair the flavor profile. WACKER’s development team has devised a third option: “Our cyclodextrins are a great alternative,” says Harrison.

Green tea in its final processing stage from leaf to powder.

These ring-shaped molecules, which are produced enzymatically from starch, are particularly adept at binding inside them the bitter substance contained in green tea, thus eliminating the taste perceived by the consumer.

"Cyclodextrins can help us selectively improve the bitter components in beverages," says Dr. Philipp Osterloh, WACKER’s Food Solutions business development manager in Munich. "Masking the taste of health-promoting ingredients in foods – particularly beverages – which would otherwise taste unpleasant is an area which offers great potential and for which WACKER offers an attractive solution."