Cakes, puddings, baked sweets...sugar is indispensable for tasty sweets, but many consumers may abstain from sugar, due to health concerns. Rare Sugar Sweet was developed by an industry-academia-government collaboration project from Kagawa Prefecture, as syrup that is gentle on the body and can be a substitute for sugar, containing rare sugar. What is this new sweetener Rare Sugar Sweet, that will support our diet in the future, and what is the rare sugar it contains?
Rare sugar, found only in small quantities in nature
With rising health awareness, rare sugar is drawing attention not just in Japan but also overseas. It is a general name for sugars found only in small quantities in nature, and comes in approximately 50 varieties?xylitol being one of them?used in foods like chewing gum. Of these rare sugars, D-psicose is gaining attention. It has about 70% of sugar’s sweetness, yet it has almost no calories, suggesting potential to eliminate the bad effects of sugar overdoses.
Rare Sugar Sweet is syrup that contains rare sugar, featuring D-psicose so that it can be enjoyed by general consumers.
It contains 5% D-psicose as well as other rare sugars like D-allose, in addition to other sugars like glucose and fructose. Compared to sugar it is 90% sweet, yet 20% lower in calories and has been proven to have good effects like reducing body fat. It is clear, easy to use and has nearly the same taste as sugar. It is a new sweetener that, when compared sugar, is less likely to cause weight gain.
Unexpected discovery led to commercialization
Making rare sugar a sweetener accessible to everyone.
There were many efforts and technologies behind the creation of Rare Sugar Sweet. As the name suggests, rare sugars are found only in small quantities in nature and are pricy and hard to obtain, so no researchers paid attention to them. The tide changed in 1991, when Professor Ken Izumori (now a Specially Appointed Professor), Faculty of Agriculture, Kagawa University, found a microorganism that produced enzymes to turn fructose into D-psicose. Later he succeeded in synthesizing D-psicose for the first time in the world.
Eijiro Matsutani, Chairman of Matsutani Chemical Industry headquartered in Itami City, Hyogo Prefecture, reacted to this news, thinking this might turn into a groundbreaking product. The company was an integrated starch manufacturer and the leading manufacturer of FOSHU (Food for Specified Health Uses) ingredients. They also had a past experience in the glucose business, so they were fully equipped with the skills and expertise to commercialize rare sugars.
The company cooperated with Dr. Izumori and started research on commercializing D-psicose. By 2004 they were admitted to the Knowledge Cluster Initiative, where they received subsidies from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, to advance the research to turn D-psicose into food. Later, more effects were discovered in D-psicose, such as suppressing the rise of blood pressure after meal and the accumulation of fat in internal organs.
The highest hurdle was mass-producing D-psicose. The breakthrough came from research by the Food Research Branch, Kagawa Prefectural Industrial Technology Research Center.
“We analyzed many different food items and investigated which food contained D-psicose. The research revealed D-psicose is found only in processed foods, for example it is found in raisins but not in fresh grapes. That led us to the conclusion that D-psicose was generated by heating fructose,” says the researcher who was in charge of the research.
Guided by this result as a big clue, the company succeeded in developing Rare Sugar Sweet, the syrup that contains rare sugars including D-psicose.
The future of Rare Sugar Sweet
Rare Sugar Sweet was first launched in 2011 in Kagawa Prefecture and in 2012 was rolled out to the rest of the country. It has received countless awards and has sent shockwaves through the food industry. Its momentum is not limited to Japan. Right now in Taiwan, Rare Sugar Sweet has been approved as a food item and is now preparing to be launched. Going forward, it will be distributed in wide channels, mainly in Asia but also in western countries.
By 2013, construction started on Matsutani Chemical Industry’s Bannosu Plant (Kagawa Prefecture), the plant to produce Rare Sugar Sweet, and is the base for mass production not just for Japan but for exports also. Kazuhiro Okuma, Director of the company’s laboratory, says “through rare sugar, we want to contribute to the healthy living of people all over the world.”
It is very exciting. The “dream sugar” spawned by the smallest prefecture in Japan might enrich our diet.
This time, E?ZEY JAPAN developed sweets that feature Rare Sugar Sweet. How about trying a range of products that will enchant sweet lovers, from Japanese to western sweets?
*Rare Sugar Sweet is syrup that uses glucose and fructose as its main ingredients and contains approximately 15% of rare sugars (including D-psicose and D-allose).
*Reference: Futorinikui “Yume No Kanmiryo” Kagawahatsu Kishoto No Kiseki (Nikkei BP)
Matsutani Chemical Industry Co., Ltd.
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