Conagen scales up production of two new high-intensity natural sweeteners derived from thaumatin protein


Both sweeteners are produced using Conagen’s proprietary precision fermentation process.

Photo © Africa

Photo © Africa

Conagen (Bedford, MA) and its commercial partner Sweegen (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) announced that Conagen has successfully scaled-up production of two natural, high-intensity sweeteners derived from thaumatin proteins. The new zero-sugar natural sweeteners target sugar reduction in food and beverages.

The thaumatin I and thaumatin II sweeteners are both made from proteins derived from the fruits of the tropical plant Thaumatococcus daniellii. Each has a slightly different sweetness profile. Both “have been evaluated as 100,000 times sweeter than sugar on a molar basis and 3,000 times sweetener on a weight basis,” the company stated in a press release.

Both sweeteners are produced using Conagen’s proprietary precision fermentation process. In fact, the thaumatin proteins were developed using the same peptide production platform that the company used to scale up production of another recently launched peptide sweetener, brazzein. Conagen and Sweegen debuted brazzein at last year’s SupplySide West trade show.

“Conagen constantly improves its protein and peptide production platforms to generate more exciting new products,” said Casey Lippmeier, vice president of innovation at Conagen, in a press release. “In this case, the platform has been leveraged to make thaumatin by several innovative approaches, but under a significantly shorter R&D timeline.”

Sweegen will add the two new thaumatin sweeteners to its portfolio of natural sweeteners, which in addition to brazzein includes stevia. The companies note: “Regulatory approval for thaumatin as natural sweeteners has passed in the European Union (E957), Israel, and Japan. In the United States, it is generally recognized as safe as a flavoring agent (FEMA GRAS 3732).”

The companies add that “Like most other proteins, when thaumatin proteins are consumed, they are digested into amino acids. However, because thaumatin communicates such a strong sweet taste, the levels used in most applications contribute almost no calories. It is one of the most intense sweeteners ever discovered.”

Lippmeier hinted at more to come. “Thaumatin is the second announced product generated from our peptide platform, which fits well into our existing world-scale, precision fermentation infrastructure. Peptides and small proteins like brazzein and thaumatin can be very difficult to make economically; however, now that we have successfully scaled multiple peptides and proteins, we are willing to collaborate with other customers to make other novel peptide products.”

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