March 16, 2011 / 4:37 AM / 7 years ago

Cargill says new lo-cal product hits sweet spot

<p>Cargill VP Global Food Technology, Kerr Dow speaks during the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago March 16, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress</p>

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill, further expanding beyond its traditional commodities-based businesses, says its latest product will make a splash in beverages.

“It’s a capability that allows us to take sugar or other materials out of products and replace the sugar with other materials that maintain the flavor, the sweetness and the body,” Kerr Dow, Cargill’s vice president of global food technology, told the Reuters Food Summit on Wednesday.

Cargill CARG.UL earlier on Wednesday rolled out the new product, TasteWise, which targets improving the taste and appeal of low-calorie drinks. It is also being developed to apply the technology to soups, dressing and sauces.

The development comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its dietary food guidelines to combat obesity in the United States, encouraging Americans to eat less sugar and fat and consume more fruits and vegetables.

“The key driver for our customers is to take calories out of their products,” Dow said when asked if TasteWise could replace sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in foods. “Yes. It’s possible to replace it and still have the taste, the body.”

TasteWise employs low-calorie sweeteners, flavorings and other ingredients that mimic the texture and taste of products with a higher amount of sweeteners so “beverage makers can make their reduced-calorie drinks taste better than ever.”

Cargill has filed six patents on the TasteWise technology, which addresses not just the calorie count of the ingredients but the taste and texture -- or “mouth-feel,” as he termed it -- of the low-calorie beverages and foods it is used for.

One key is a low-calorie sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant, an herbal shrub common to tropical regions of North and South America.

Dow said Cargill’s customers in North America and Europe were the first to be sampling the new technology and it is working jointly with the research and development arms of those firms to apply TasteWise to specific food needs.

“We’re launching an ability to customize a specific formulation for our customers,” he said. “The customer can then create a product that’s naturally sweetened and doesn’t have sugar.”

Minneapolis-based Cargill, a privately held global giant for decades in commodity trading and processing, in recent years has expanded rapidly into food ingredients and higher-end food applications for manufacturers in the meat, eggs, dairy, grain, oilseed and beverage industries.

Those ingredients have long included high-calorie sweeteners like corn syrup. But Dow said Cargill’s ingredients business is designed to respond to customer demand, with a growing trend toward lo-cal foods and drinks.

The TasteWise technology addresses that need, he said.

“No matter how healthy a product is, if it doesn’t taste the way a customer wants, we won’t sell it,” he said.

Cargill operates in 66 countries and in fiscal 2010 posted net earnings of $2.6 billion on worldwide sales of $107.9 billion.

Reporting by Christine Stebbins, editing by Matthew Lewis

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