The Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Oshodi, Lagos, said it has developed a technology that can aid in the commercial extraction and optimization of high-grade Thaumatin, a low-calorie sweetener and flavor modifier.
The Director-General of FIIRO, Gloria Elemo, made this known at the International Conference on Alternative Sweeteners which held in Lagos recently,themed: “Harnessing of the Economic Potential of Thaumatin (Thaumatococcus danielli) in Africa”.
Thaumatin is a low-calorie protein sweetener and flavor modifier extracted from the fruit of a West African plant, Thaumatococcus danielli, and is natural with intense sweeteners.
The DG said that the move is appropriate considering that the global market for high-intensity sweetener, both natural and synthetic is estimated at $1.3bn in 2008 and is expected to quadruple by 2021.
Speaking further, she said there is an increasing large segment of the population with special dietary needs containing non-nutritive sugar, such as diabetic patients.
She said attention has shifted to sourcing of alternative sweeteners, mainly non-nutritive phytochemicals, from plants towards bridging the gap between production and consumption of sweeteners, sweetening and flavor enhancers.
“Over the past few decades, non-nutritive sweeteners have been gaining significance and are expected to develop into a major source of high potency sweetener for the growing natural food and pharmaceutical markets.
“There is a huge gap between sugar production and consumption in Nigeria, and this represents a serious problem since an estimated 2.5 million tonnes will be imported to meet local demand,” she said.
Elemo revealed that all available sweeteners for industrial and domestic use in the country are imported, adding that aside from their non-availability and high cost, they have negative health implications.
“FIIRO as an organisation has over a long period been involved in herbal programmes and project for sweeteners, medicines, spices, condiments, nutraceuticals, foods and functional foods,” she said.
She said the institute ensures that only the best and safest ingredients are utilised in the development of its various products to spur industrialisation in the country.
Also speaking at the conference, Prof. Bidemi Kappo from the University of Zuzuland, South Africa, said the conference is seeking partnerships between Nigeria and South Africa to bring together products that could be used to achieve a healthy population. He urged the Federal Government to partner stakeholders in the industry to deepen commercialization of the plant.
“I hope that from the experience I bring from South Africa, we can come up with a product that we can take to the market which can actually ameliorate metabolic diseases in Nigeria and Africa at large,” he said.
Speaking at the event, Mr Muhammed Musa, Director, Raw Materials Research Development Council (RMRDC), said the council has a scheme for strategic projects to develop the nation through industrial technology, adding that Thaumatin is a focal point of the scheme. He said there is the need to have plantations to domesticate the plant, saying the council has put in place different initiatives for processing the plant for commercialisation.