Research eliminates need for added sugars in drinks

Scientists at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have been working with University of Sheffield, Innovate UK and WET Group to find a way to create drinks that do not need sugar or additives.

Research found that the common water purification process known as Reverse Osmosis (RO) can reduce the liquid’s pH level to acidic values of 6.1 or lower – compared to water’s neutral pH level of 7.

This process causes the liquid to become more acidic, leaving a salty, bitter taste. As a result, sugar is added to drinks to cover up this adverse flavour. Some drinks tested had a highly acidic pH level of 2.5

Martin Grootveld, professor of Bio-analytical Chemistry and Chemical Pathology at DMU, said: “Our study shows that in order to reduce the amount of sugar in drinks, we need to look at the way we treat the water beforehand.”

Existing water treatment techniques are unable to alter the pH value of RO-treated water. However the AES machine from WET Group turns source water into alkaline water through a process of filtration, re-mineralisation and alkalisation. Its creation of water with a high, stable pH of 10.5 has been proven through academic testing to maintain this alkalinity – even after adding flavours.

Dr. Ahmed Abbas Mohamed, director of research and development at WET Group, said: “We developed a method that creates drinks which do not need sugar or additives. Realising that sugar is not used for flavour but to cover up the loss of flavouring due to extreme acidity was a big step, which set us on the path to developing the AES machine to solve the issue.”

The drinks created maintained the higher pH value and showed no microbial growth when exposed to 12 weeks of accelerated shelf-life testing at ambient and abusive temperatures of 20°C and 30°C. The drinks also contained less than 0.1 g of sugar per 100ml.

Kathryn Miller, innovation lead – food and nutrition, Innovate UK, said: “With a rapidly growing group population, there is an increasing need for innovation if we are to meet the demand for more efficiently produced, healthier and traceable food.”

The AES machine from WET Group is a first in the market and has been awarded the Seal of Excellence by the European Commission for eliminating sugars in drinks and the best technology innovation 2019 for beverages by the Group beverage experts, Zenith.

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