How to choose between Reb A and Reb M

Reb M is the wonderchild among steviol glycosides. Gone is the bitter taste and licorice-like aftertaste. Reb M has the same sweetness as regular sugar – but is 300 times sweeter. Is this the end for Reb A – the former champion? No! Reb A is still the best choice in many situations – despite the bi- and aftertaste. In this article, we work out how to choose the right steviol glycoside.

8 April 2020 •

Are you and your col­leagues con­sid­er­ing ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides but do not know which is the best option? In the EU, eleven ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides are approved as sweet­en­ers – but in prac­tice – the choice is between the faith­ful ser­vant Reb A and the new­com­er Reb M. The ques­tion is which one to choose.

What is Reb A?

Reb A, or Rebaudioside A, is the most com­mon­ly used ste­vi­ol gly­co­side. It is rough­ly 300 times sweet­er than reg­u­lar sug­ar. The sweet­ness varies some­what depend­ing on the food it is used in. Reb A has sig­nif­i­cant­ly less bit­ter­ness than ste­vio­side, which is the pre­vi­ous­ly com­mon­ly used ste­vi­ol gly­co­side. But there is still some bit­ter­ness left and a licorice-like aftertaste.

What is Reb M?

Reb M, or Rebaudioside M, is a fair­ly recent­ly approved ste­vi­ol gly­co­side. It has a nice taste that appears quick­ly and is sim­i­lar to reg­u­lar sug­ar more than any oth­er ste­vi­ol gly­co­side. It has no bit­ter­ness or after­taste of licorice. Reb M is a sweet­en­er with great poten­tial.

The sweeter the better?

Because Reb M tastes like sug­ar (albeit with three hun­dred times more intense sweet­ness) and has no unwant­ed bi- or after­taste. Reb M should sim­ply be the one to go for no mat­ter what. The arti­cle could end here.

Wait, stop for a while! It can’t be that simple?

No, of course, it’s not that easy.

Several fac­tors inter­act to cre­ate the right taste sen­sa­tion and mouth­feel. There are cas­es when using ste­via extract with 50–60 per­cent Reb A gives bet­ter fla­vor than ste­via extract with 80–95 per­cent Reb M. In some appli­ca­tions, Reb A along with oth­er ingre­di­ents may – after all – be a bet­ter alter­na­tive is Reb M.

Let’s take a clos­er look at applications…

Applications

The ques­tion you have to ask your­self is: What prod­uct do I work with and what should it do?

This is a key issue. Perhaps the most impor­tant when choos­ing between Reb A and Reb M.

In some prod­ucts, sweet­ness is val­ued more than any­thing else. In prod­ucts with a ‘sim­ple’ (non-com­plex) fla­vor pro­file, such as can­dies and oth­er sweets, we want the sugar’s typ­i­cal sweet taste. We also want to avoid taste and sweet­ness that lingers for too long. In appli­ca­tions with a sim­ple fla­vor pro­file, Reb M with its pure sug­ar-like taste may be preferred.

But in prod­ucts with a com­plex taste pro­file, taste and after­taste are not nec­es­sar­i­ly a prob­lem. It may even be desir­able. Take, for exam­ple, choco­late that has a com­plex fla­vor pro­file. The bit­ter­ness is desir­able and comes main­ly from cocoa. The lit­tle extra that Reb A adds is not noticed. And the licorice-like after­taste may even be desir­able. In appli­ca­tions with a com­plex taste pro­file, Reb A, with its side- and after­taste may add more than just sweetness.

In oth­er words, Reb A is not bet­ter, nor worse than Reb M. It is the appli­ca­tion that deter­mines which is best.

Price

There are eco­nom­ic rea­sons to choose Reb A over Reb M. Both are extract­ed from the plant ste­via. While the leaves of the plant con­tain 2 to 5 per­cent of Reb A, they con­tain less than 0.1 per­cent of Reb M. Consequently, Reb M is sig­nif­i­cant­ly more expensive.

As a rule of thumb, you may think that Reb M is ten times more expen­sive than Reb A.

On the oth­er hand, the oth­er ingre­di­ents need­ed to mask the after­taste and after­taste of Reb A. It is often time­con­sum­ing to find the right ingre­di­ents, try­ing them out and find­ing the right dosages. And as the say­ing goes – time is money.

Ultimately, you need to decide which option suits your prod­uct and your wal­let best. In that deci­sion, you also need to weigh the expec­ta­tions that come with the prod­uct category.

Demand and margin

For foods with low demand but high mar­gins, for exam­ple, exclu­sive con­fec­tionery, the high­er price for Reb M may be jus­ti­fied to ensure a world-class taste experience.

The oppo­site may apply to foods with high demand but low mar­gins, for exam­ple jam. In these cas­es, Reb M may be over­ly expen­sive and not worth the extra cost, while Reb A is ‘good enough’.

It depends

As you notice, it is not obvi­ous which option is best. Think of what sci­en­tists and experts on tele­vi­sion often say when stub­born jour­nal­ists demand a straight answer: ‘It depends’.

Both Reb A and Reb M have pros and cons. What we can say for sure is that both have their applications.

To deter­mine if you should use Reb A or Reb M, you can ask three questions:

  1. What role does the sweet­ness play in the prod­uct? Consider Reb M if it has the lead role. Consider Reb A if it has a sup­port­ing role.
  2. What does it cost? Choose Reb M if you can afford it and want to short­en the time to mar­ket. Consider Reb A if the mar­gins are small and you have time to try out the right fla­vor profile.
  3. In which league does the prod­uct play? Consider Reb M if the prod­uct plays in the pre­mi­um league. Consider Reb A if you have an ordi­nary product.

The need for bulk

Whether you choose Reb A or Reb M, you still have chal­lenges ahead of you: What should you fill the void that the sug­ar they replace leaves behind.

Reb A and Reb M are about 300 times sweet­er than reg­u­lar sug­ar. Therefore, 3 grams of them replace the sweet­ness of one kilo­gram of reg­u­lar sug­ar. In oth­er words, ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides only take up 0.3 per­cent of the sug­ar vol­ume and weight. What will replace the oth­er 99.7 percent?

We can help you with that prob­lem. Our heroes at the Bayn Innovation Center can help you. We offer ready-made solu­tions for dif­fer­ent appli­ca­tion areas that con­sist of sweet­ened fibres.

Finally

Do not hes­i­tate to con­tact us if you have ques­tions regard­ing Reb A or Reb M. We can help you make the right choice as we offer both Reb A and Reb M.

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