By Kunle SHONUGA
The Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) has developed a technology for commercial extraction and optimisation of high grade Thaumatin, a low calorie sweetener and flavor modifier.
The Director General, FIIRO, Gloria Elemo, disclosed this on Wednesday in Lagos during the International conference on alternative sweeteners 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 daniellii, and is totally natural with an intense sweetness.
Elemo said the move was apt considering that the market for global high intensity sweetener, both natural and synthetic, was estimated at about 1.3 billion dollars in 2008 and was expected to quadruple by 2021.
According to her, there is increasing large segment of the population with special dietary requirements containing non-nutritive sugar, such as the diabetic patients.
She said attention had shifted to sourcing of alternative sweeteners, mainly non-nutritive phytochemicals, from plants toward bridging the gap between production and consumption of sweeteners, sweetening and flavour 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.
The FIIRO boss noted that all available sweeteners for industrial and domestic use in the country were imported, adding that asides their non-availability and high cost, they had negative health implications.
“FIIRO as an organisation has over a long period of time been involved in herbal programmes and project for sweeteners, medicines, spices, condiments, nutraceuticals, foods and functional foods,” she said.
Elemo said the institute ensured that only the best and safest ingredients were utilised in the development of its various products to spur industrialisation in the country.
Also, University of Zuzuland, South Africa, Prof. Bidemi Kappo, , said the conference sought partnership between Nigeria and South Africa to bring together some products that could be used to achieve a healthy population.
He urged the Federal Government to partner stakeholders in the industry to deepen the commercialisation of the plant.
“It is my 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.
Director, Raw Materials Research Development Council (RMRDC), Mr Muhammed Musa, said the council had a scheme for strategic projects to develop the nation through industrial technology, adding that thaumatin was a focal point of the scheme.
He said there was need to have plantations to domesticate the plant, and the council had put in place different initiatives for processing the plant for commercialisation.