How to choose between Reb A and Reb M
Product development • 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.
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…
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.
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’.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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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