Thaumatin: a sweetness enhancer that can reduce the quantity and environmental impact of added sugar in food and beverage and benefit rural West African communities

A new study undertaken as part of the SWEET Project and led by the University of Surrey, has found that thaumatin, an extract from Thaumatococcus daniellii (Td) fruit, can enhance the perceived sweetness of added sugar, allowing for up to 20% of sugar to be replaced. This could help reduce the environmental impact of sugar consumption. Thaumatin, known as E957 in the EU, is produced from Td fruit found in West African forests. As Td is not a crop intentionally produced by rural African communities, it grows on fallow land and is left untouched without interest from thaumatin producers. However, with increasing interest, it presents a new opportunity for farming communities, potentially providing an extra source of income.

According to Dr James Suckling from the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environment and Sustainability and the SWEET Project consortium member who led the study, “The results of the life cycle assessment show that thaumatin can be used to reduce the environmental impact of the sweet taste of added sugar in foods and drinks. There are also obvious health benefits of delivering the same sweet taste with less sugar. With a strong interest in reducing dietary added sugar intake, upscaling of thaumatin production offers a great opportunity as an extra source of income to rural West African communities.”

This research has been undertaken as part of the Horizon 2020 SWEET project, a multi-year collaboration with 30 organizations aimed at better understanding the health and environmental benefits of non-nutritional sweeteners.

Open access to the journal article Lifecycle assessment of the sweetness enhancer thaumatin (E957) produced from Thaumatococcus daniellii fruit foraged from West Africa: The SWEET project in ScienceDirectis available by clicking on the button.