The objective of this study was to assess the possible impact of technical developments in genetic engineering, molecular biology and biochemistry on the polyols business. Specifically, if the mechanism of sweet taste is clearly understood, new high intensity sweeteners may be developed that are higher quality, greater potency and/or with more useful synergies than existing products. Such developments could have an even more significant impact in the longer term on sugar sales than has yet occurred.

The use of most polyols is presently constrained partly by technical characteristics that are inherent, and partly by their high cost when compared to sugar. Some polyols, xylitol, isomalt and possibly erythritol, have superior properties in terms of taste and texture, but are presently thought to be quite expensive. Technological innovations that significantly reduced the cost of these polyols would lead to an increase in their use.

After an introduction to genetic engineering, the study focuses on the impact of current technologies in two specific areas – on the mechanism of sweet taste and on polyol sweeteners, in particular xylitol and erythritol. The study contains information on the current understanding of these areas and discusses what may happen in the future as technology progresses. The appendices contain detailed reports on genetic engineering, protein analysis and xylitol technology.

Contents include:

Genetic engineering

Sweet taste mechanism

Impact of technology to date

Cloning of taste cell proteins

Development of structure-taste theories


Polyol production


Impact of technology to date

Developments in fermentation


Sources of xylan/xylose

Substrates for polyol production


Impact of technology to date



Appendix 1 Overview of molecular biology and genetic engineering

Appendix 2 Xylitol Technology

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