Erythritol for the Little Guy as Well as for Industrial Giants

July 30, 2010 in Diabetic Menu Item, Foodland Chronicles, Weight Management by Victor Bunderson

Guest blog by Dr. Grandpa

On July 14th, Dr Grandma’s blog post featured Erythritol, calling it the coming alternative to simple calorie-laden sugars and to high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  In this post, Dr Grandpa explains how the industrial food giants have made Erythritol a commodity, which opens up opportunities for innovation by smaller food companies.  On July 14, Dr. Grandma praised the switch of soft-drink giants away from HFCS and toward Erythritol, augmented by an intense sweetener, as a sound move for greater public health. She also guessed that it will prove to be good business for the companies involved.  Our own product, Doctor Grandma’s Delight sweetener, is based on Erythritol with added intensely sweet fruit extracts.  Erythritol alone is about 70% as sweet as sugar, so to get the same sweetness as a spoonful of sugar you would need to take about a spoonful and one half of Erythritol. In Doctor Grandma's Delight, the sweetness is increased to that of sugar.

The blog also mentioned that the demand for Erythritol made it impossible for a small company like ours to re-order this remarkable zero-calorie natural product from our previous suppliers, at least for some time. Probably this had to do with the great demand generated by the soft-drink giants who are introducing the Stevia-enhanced Erythritol as a replacement for caloric sweeteners and perhaps as an alternative to some of the artificial sweeteners they have been using in diet drinks.  While we were told we could not get any Erythritol until 2011, one supplier called back a couple of months later, and offered it to us for a substantially increased price.  These events made us wonder whether small companies would be able to obtain a dependable, high-quality, and affordable supply of this commodity.  Erythritol is a very old commodity, centuries old.  It is made by a fermentation process; as wines and vinegars are made. But it has not until now become a commodity available in massive quantities as required by the soft-drink giants.

We are happy to report that we have been able to find alternative suppliers who can provide the quality we require, and at a cost comparable to our  previous experience. This is a good development not just for small companies like ours, but for the worldwide pricing and new product competition which the new demand for Erythritol can introduce. We are strong believers that smaller and newer companies have long been the generators of job growth.  The Wilson Quarterly recently published a study that showed that 100% of new jobs were created by companies 25 years old or less.  The companies established before that lost as many jobs as they created, for a net gain in jobs of 0%.

A new twenty-five kilogram bag of high quality Erythritol, invitingly posed for this portrait under a DrG flowerbox

Great news! In our search for new suppliers we found the capability to deliver a finer mesh size.  Mesh size is a measure of  the fineness of the largest particles found in a quantity of a substance.  The smaller the mesh number, the larger the particles that will slip through the mesh when you sieve the material.  A small mesh number, like 10, means fewer mesh wires for a given area of sieve. A large number, like 100, would only permit powdered sugar or powdered Erythritol through. Our previous product was quite variable.  We have carefully examined it and found that it generally fell between 20 and 60 mesh.  But we observed some extra large crystals of Erythritol which might not even have been screened out by a 10 mesh sieve.

Large crystals and a widely variable mesh size may not be a problem in soft drinks, but it is a problem in the cooking we do. We have long done our own testing, and have found that Doctor Grandma’s Delight may be used in all kinds of cooking, so long as the browning or caramelizing property of sugar was not needed.  Erythritol can be used in sauces; as a sugar-like sweetener to put in drinks; or on fruit or cereal.  Most important to us, it can be used in baking and in home cooking.  Our Muffins Your Way product requires the sweetener to work well when baked; our Pancake and Waffle Mix requires it to be fry-pan and waffle-iron friendly.

But it has been more work to mix in the variable-sized Erythritol crystals with the lower mesh numbers, because you have to stir harder and longer, or else the larger crystals of Erythritol might not blend in quickly. An example is a hastily stirred Greek Yogurt.  With the 20 to 60 mesh product, it tends to be a bit grainy.

We have been delighted to find that advances in manufacturing at fairly new companies enable them to sieve and grade Erythritol.  As a result, we can get a mesh size that compares very favorably with table sugar!  We are testing it now, but it seems to mix in very quickly, enabling quick mixing of spreads like Greek Yogurt, no undissolved crystals in tea, strawberry-mint drinks. No time lost stirring in baking, nor in sweetened stir-fry.  Note the picture comparing table sugar with the new Doctor Grandma’s Erythritol. You can see that the 60-mesh Erythritol is very close to the mesh of sugar.

60 mesh Erythritol (left) compared to table sugar (sucrose, right side)

In addition to using the new 60 mesh Erythritol in our zero-calorie, all natural sweetener, Doctor Grandma's Delight, we plan to offer Erythritol itself in several package sizes.  Some of you might like to use it plain in your own cooking or in your own experimentation. So many other products in addition to soft drinks now use High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), that there is room for many innovative makers of jellies, jams, chocolates, candies, pies, sauces, and other items that are currently using HFCS. By replacing it with Erythritol or Delight, they would become more weight-management friendly, diabetes friendly, and heart healthy. And as you contemplate the possibilities for healthy food products you could produce, or would like to purchase, consider a superior example of such innovation: the delicious diabetic-friendly BBQ sauce offering of our friend Grandma Koyote.

Please write and give us your suggestions or comments about the use of Delight or Erythritol in regular cooking, or in new healthy products you would like to see.  We are very sorry that in getting used to the new software on our web-site, we inadvertently left comments turned off.