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Title:
STEVIOL GLYCOSIDE AGGLOMERATES AND PROCESS FOR PRODUCING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/094702
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Steviol glycoside agglomerate compositions are disclosed that do not include binding agents or carriers.

Inventors:
FURLANO, Bruce (1635 Juno Ave, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55116, US)
OHMES, Andrew Keith (882 Hope Ave, Jordan, Minnesota, 55352, US)
RHONEMUS, Troy Allen (5450 Teakwood Lane North, Plymouth, Minnesota, 55442, US)
TYLER, Christopher Austin (4740 Dominick Drive, Minnetonka, Minnesota, 55343, US)
Application Number:
US2011/023207
Publication Date:
August 04, 2011
Filing Date:
January 31, 2011
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
CARGILL, INCORPORATED (Mail Stop 24, 15407 McGinty Road WestWayzata, Minnesota, 55391, US)
FURLANO, Bruce (1635 Juno Ave, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55116, US)
OHMES, Andrew Keith (882 Hope Ave, Jordan, Minnesota, 55352, US)
RHONEMUS, Troy Allen (5450 Teakwood Lane North, Plymouth, Minnesota, 55442, US)
TYLER, Christopher Austin (4740 Dominick Drive, Minnetonka, Minnesota, 55343, US)
International Classes:
C07H15/00
Foreign References:
US20070116829A1
US20070116800A1
US4997659A
US5496487A
US20090162500A1
US7582154B2
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MALILAY, Grace P. et al. (Mail Stop 24, 15407 McGinty Road WestWayzata, Minnesota, 55361, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A process for producing a steviol glycoside agglomerate comprising the steps of:

(a) providing a steviol glycoside powder comprising from about 70 wt. % to about 99.5 wt. % rebaudioside A on a dry weight basis;

(b) fluidizing the steviol glycoside powder;

(c) applying a solvent onto the fluidized steviol glycoside powder to form a steviol glycoside agglomerate; and

(d) drying the steviol glycoside agglomerate to about 2% to about 8% solvent.

2. The process according to claim 1, wherein the steviol glycoside powder comprises from about 80 wt. % to about 97 wt. % rebaudioside A on a dry weight basis.

3. The process as in either claim lor claim 2, wherein steps (c) and (d) are performed simultaneously.

4. The process as in any of claims 1 -3, wherein step (a) further comprises no more than about 20 wt. % non-steviol glycosides on a dry weight basis.

5. The process as in any of claims 1-3, wherein in step (c), the solvent is sprayed onto the fluidized steviol glycoside.

6. The process as in any of claims 1-3, wherein the morphology of the steviol glycoside powder provided in step (a) is selected from the group consisting of amorphous, crystalline, and mixtures thereof.

7. The process according to claim 6 wherein the morphology of the steviol glycoside

agglomerate provided in step (c) is substantially similar to the morphology of the steviol glycoside powder provided in step (a).

8. The process as in any of claims 1-3, wherein the steviol glycoside powder has an

average particle size of from about 1 micron to about 150 microns.

9. The process as in any of claims 1 -3, wherein the steviol glycoside powder has an average particle size of from about 20 microns to about 75 microns.

10. The process as in any of claims 1-3, wherein the steviol glycoside agglomerate has an average particle size of from about 50 microns to about 425 microns.

1 1. The process as in any of claims 1-3, wherein the steviol glycoside agglomerate has an average particle size of from about 75 microns to about 325 microns.

12. The process as in any of claims 1-3, wherein the solvent is selected from the group consisting of water, ethanol, isopropanol, methanol, and mixtures thereof.

13. The process according to claim 12, wherein the solvent is water.

14. The process according to claim 13, wherein the water is from about 20 degrees C. to about 25 degrees C.

15. The process as in either claim 13 or claim 14, wherein the water is sprayed at a rate from about 2 g/min/kg to about 8 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder for about 15 minutes to about 300 minutes.

16. The process as in either claim 13 or claim 14, wherein the water is sprayed at a rate from about 4 g/min/kg to about 6 g/min kg of steviol glycoside powder for about 15 minutes to about 300 minutes.

17. The process as in either claim 13 or claim 14, wherein the water is sprayed at a rate from about 2 g/min/kg to about 8 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder for about 30 minutes to about 150 minutes.

18. The process as in either claim 13 or claim 14, wherein the water is sprayed at a rate from about 4 g/min/kg to about 6 g/min kg of steviol glycoside powder for about 30 minutes to about 150 minutes.

19. The process as in any of claims 1-3, wherein steps (a), (b), and (c) are performed using a batch fluid bed agglomerator.

20. The process as in any of claims 1-3, wherein steps (a), (b), and (c) are performed using a continuous fluid bed agglomerator.

21. A steviol glycoside agglomerate comprising the agglomerate from about 70 wt. % to about 99.5 wt. % rebaudioside A and no more than 20 wt. % non-steviol glycosides on a dry weight basis based upon the total amount of the agglomerate.

22. The steviol glycoside agglomerate according to claim 21 , wherein the agglomerate comprises from about 80 wt. % to about 99.5 wt. % rebaudioside A on a dry weight basis based upon the total amount of the agglomerate.

23. The steviol glycoside agglomerate as in either claim 21 or claim 22, wherein the steviol glycoside agglomerate is comprised of particles, more than 20% of which are greater in size than 100 mesh and more than about 8% of which are greater than 60 mesh.

24. The steviol glycoside agglomerate of either claim 21 or claim 22, wherein the steviol glycoside agglomerate is comprised of particles, wherein more than about 40 percent are smaller in size than 200 mesh.

25. The steviol glycoside agglomerate of either claim 21 or claim 22, wherein the steviol glycoside agglomerate is comprised of particles, wherein at least 60% percent are between about 200 mesh and 60 mesh in size.

26. A steviol glycoside agglomerate comprising the agglomerate having a particle size from about 50 microns to about 425 microns, preferably from about 75 microns to about 325 microns.

27. A steviol glycoside agglomerate comprising the agglomerate having an average

particle size greater than 100 microns that will dissolve 1 g per 99 g in water at a temperature of about 25 degrees C. for up to about 5 minutes.

28. A steviol glycoside agglomerate comprising the agglomerate having a bulk

density of from about 0.45 g per cc to about 0.7 g per cc, preferably from about 0.5 g per cc to about 0.6 g per cc.

29. A food product comprising the agglomerate as in any of claims 21 to 28.

30. A food product according to claim 29, wherein the food product is selected from the group consisting of ice cream and frozen desserts, dry mixes, tabletop, cereals, baked goods, condiments, yogurt, dairy, jam, jellies and preserves, confectionery including chocolate, hard and soft candies, mints, gum and cough drops, meat, prepared mixes, meal replacement bars, savory bars, spreads, fruit fillings, dressings, soups, sauces, baby foods, and pudding.

31. A beverage product according to claim 29, comprising the agglomerate as in any of claims 21 to 28.

32. A beverage product according to claim 31 , wherein the beverage product is selected from the group consisting of a carbonated beverage, a non-carbonated beverage, a powdered beverage, a ready-to-drink beverage, an alcoholic beverage, a non-alcoholic beverage, coffee, and tea.

33. A flavored product comprising the agglomerate as in any of claims 21 to 28.

34. A flavor comprising the agglomerate as in any of claim 21 to 28.

Description:
STEVIOL GLYCOSIDE AGGLOMERATES AND PROCESS FOR PRODUCING

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of US provisional applications Serial No.

61/337,230 filed 29 January 2010 entitled STEVIOL GLYCOSIDE AGGLOMERATE AND PROCESS OF PREPARING and Serial No. 61/337,361 filed 02 February 2010 entitled STEVIOL GLYCOSIDE AGGLOMERATE AND PROCESS OF PREPARING, which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety. FIELD

The present disclosure relates to steviol glycoside agglomerates and process for producing the agglomerates.

BACKGROUND

The genus Stevia has been the subject of considerable research and development efforts directed at the purification of certain naturally occurring sweet glycosides that have potential as non-caloric sweeteners. Naturally occurring, sweet glycosides that may be extracted from the species Stevia rebaudiana include the six rebaudiosides (i.e., rebaudioside A, B, C, D, E, F), stevioside (the predominant glycoside in extracts from wild type Stevia rebaudiana), and dulcosides (i.e., dulcoside A, B).

Sweeteners may be used for sweetening a variety of products, including drinks, dry powder mixes, tabletop sweeteners, foods, confectioneries, pastries, chewing gums, hygiene products and toiletries, as well as cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and veterinary products.

The usefulness of powder sweeteners to sweeten products depends on a number of desired properties. First, dusting of the product has to be minimal or entirely eliminated to avoid loss of product. Second, good flow behavior is desired for processing and ease of handling. Third, maintaining particle homogeneity is desired, particularly in a powder sweetener where the ability to mix well and remain mixed with other ingredients is important. And, fourth, a quick dissolution rate is a desired feature for tabletop and powder soft drink applications. These desired properties can be accomplished by agglomerating the powder sweeteners.

The sweetener agglomerates disclosed in the prior art are typically comprised of a high intensity sweetener with at least one additive, such as, a bulking agent or a carrier. U.S. Patent Numbers 6,180,157 describes a process for preparing an agglomerate of N-[N-(3,3-dimethylbutyl)-L-a-aspartyl]-L-phenylalanine 1-methyl ester and a carrier. In the process, a premix solution of the N-[N-(3,3-dimethylbutyl)-L-a-aspartyl]-L-phenylalanine 1- methyl ester and a binding agent, fluidizing a carrier, and applying the premix solution onto the fluidized carrier to form an agglomerate of the N-[N-(3,3-dimethylbutyl)-L-a-aspartyl]- L-phenylalanine 1 -methyl ester and the carrier.

U.S. Patent Number 6,365,217, a divisional of U.S. 6,180,157, further describes the agglomerate prepared by this process and also the agglomerate comprising an effective sweetener amount of N-[N-(3,3-dimethylbutyl)-L-a-aspartyl]-L-phenylalanine 1-methyl ester, a binding agent, and a carrier.

U.S. Patent Application Publication Number US 2005/0226983 reports an

agglomerate of an intense sweetener and a carrier such that the sweetener has a bulk density from 0.18 to 0.50 g/cc.

In these known inventions, either the carrier or binding agent, or both, plays an important role in the finished properties of the agglomerate. There remains a need for a high intensity sweetener agglomerate without binding agents or carriers (a) to reduce product loss through dusting, for example, and (b) for ease of processing and handling. In addition, the existence of a high intensity sweetener agglomerate without binding agents or carriers would meet consumer demand for reducing the number of ingredients in product formulations and to provide a natural sweetener.

SUMMARY

Provided herein are steviol glycoside agglomerates and process for producing.

In one embodiment of the present disclosure, a process for producing a steviol glycoside agglomerate includes providing a steviol glycoside powder comprising from about 70 wt. % to about 99.5 wt. % rebaudioside A on a dry weight basis (preferably, about 80 wt. % to about 97 wt. % rebaudioside A on a dry weight basis), fluidizing the steviol glycoside powder, applying a solvent onto the fluidized steviol glycoside powder to form a steviol glycoside agglomerate, and drying the steviol glycoside agglomerate to about 2% to about 8% solvent. In some embodiments, the process of applying the solvent onto the fluidized steviol glycoside powder to form the steviol glycoside agglomerate and drying the steviol glycoside agglomerate are performed simultaneously. In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside powder includes no more than about 20 wt. % non-steviol glycosides on a dry weight basis. In some embodiments, the solvent is sprayed onto the fluidized steviol glycoside powder. In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside powder includes amorphous, crystalline, and mixtures thereof. In some embodiments, the morphology of the steviol glycoside agglomerate is substantially similar to the morphology of the steviol glycoside powder. In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside powder has an average particle size of from about 1 micron to about 150 microns, preferably from about 20 microns to about 75 microns. In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside agglomerate has an average particle size of from about 50 microns to about 425 microns, preferably from about 75 microns to about 325 microns. In some embodiments, the solvent includes water, ethanol, isopropanol, methanol, and mixtures thereof, preferably water, where the water is from about 20 degrees C. to about 25 degrees C. and where the water is sprayed at a rate from about 2 g/min/kg to about 8 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder for about 15 minutes to about 300 minutes. In some embodiments, the water is sprayed at a rate from about 4 g/min/kg to about 6 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder for about 15 minutes to about 300 minutes. In some

embodiments, the water is sprayed at a rate from about 2 g/min/kg to about 8 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder for about 30 minutes to about 150 minutes. In some embodiments, the water is sprayed at a rate from about 4 g/min/kg to about 6 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder for about 30 minutes to about 150 minutes. In some embodiments, the process is performed using a batch fluid bed agglomerator. In some embodiments, the process is performed using a continuous fluid bed agglomerator.

In yet one embodiment of the present disclosure, a steviol glycoside agglomerate includes the agglomerate from about 70 wt. % to about 99.5 wt. % rebaudioside A (preferably about 80 wt. % to about 97 wt. % rebaudioside A) and no more than 20 wt. % non-steviol glycosides on a dry weight basis based upon the total amount of the agglomerate. In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside agglomerate includes particles, more than 20% of which are greater in size than 100 mesh and more than about 8% of which are greater than 60 mesh. In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside agglomerate includes particles, where more than about 40 percent are smaller in size than 200 mesh. In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside agglomerate includes particles, where at least 60% percent are between about 200 mesh and 60 mesh in size. In some embodiments, a steviol glycoside agglomerate includes the agglomerate having a particle size from about 50 microns to about 425 microns, preferably from about 75 microns to about 325 microns. In some embodiments, a steviol glycoside agglomerate includes the agglomerate having an average particle size greater than 100 microns that will dissolve 1 g per 99 g in water at a temperature of about 25 degrees C. for up to about 5 minutes.

In some embodiments, a steviol glycoside agglomerate includes the agglomerate having a bulk density of from about 0.45 g per cc to about 0.7 g per cc, preferably from about 0.5 g per cc to about 0.6 g per cc.

In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside agglomerate is in a food product including ice cream and frozen desserts, dry mixes, tabletop, cereals, baked goods, condiments, yogurt, dairy, jam, jellies and preserves, confectionery including chocolate, hard and soft candies, mints, gum and cough drops, meat, prepared mixes, meal replacement bars, savory bars, spreads, fruit fillings, dressings, soups, sauces, baby foods, and pudding.

In some embodiments, the rebaudioside A agglomerate is in a beverage product including a carbonated beverage, a non-carbonated beverage, a powdered beverage, a ready- to-drink beverage, an alcoholic beverage, a non-alcoholic beverage, coffee, and tea.

In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside agglomerate is in a flavored product.

In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside agglomerate is in a flavor.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1 is a graph of the particle size distribution of the steviol glycoside powder and steviol glycoside agglomerate of Example 1.

Figure 2 is a graph of the particle size distribution of the steviol glycoside powder and steviol glycoside agglomerate of Example 2.

Figure 3 is a graph of the particle size distribution of the steviol glycoside powder and steviol glycoside agglomerate of Example 3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Terms and Definitions

Unless otherwise defined, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention belongs.

The term, "steviol glycoside", as used herein, refers to any of the glycosides of the aglycone steviol (ent-13-hydroxykaur-16-en-19-oic acid) including, but not limited to stevioside, rebaudioside A, rebaudioside B, rebaudioside C, rebaudioside D, rebaudisode E, rebaudisode F, dulcoside, rubusoside, steviolmonoside, steviolbioside, and 19-Ο-β glucopyranosol-steviol.

The term, "non-steviol glycoside", as used herein, refers to any compound from a leaf of the genus Stevia other than steviol glycosides.

Process for Producing the Agglomerate

The present disclosure provides a process for producing a steviol glycoside agglomerate.

The inventors unexpectedly observed that a steviol glycoside agglomerate can be produced from a process that does not utilize binding agents or carriers. In one aspect, the present disclosure provides a process for producing a steviol glycoside agglomerate where a steviol glycoside from about 70 wt. % to about 99.5 wt. % rebaudioside A, preferably about 80 wt. % to about 97 wt. % rebaudioside A, on a dry weight basis is fluidized and a solvent, preferably water, is sprayed onto the fluidized steviol glycoside powder to form a steviol glycoside agglomerate. The steviol glycoside agglomerate is then dried to about 2% to about 8% solvent.

There are numerous methods for the production of steviol glycoside powders, for example, rebaudioside A. Japanese Patent 63173531 describes a method of extracting sweet glycosides from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. This procedure isolates a mixture of sweet glycosides. U.S. Patent Application No. 2006/0134292 reports a process for recovering sweet glycosides from Stevia rebaudiana plant material. Rebaudioside A with high purity is obtained after washing the crystals with 88-95% ethanol. Other techniques include those reported in Japanese Publication Numbers 56121454, 56121455, 52062300, and 56121453 assigned to Ajinomoto Company, Inc., and in Chinese Publication Number 1243835 assigned to Hailin Stevia Rebaudium Sugar.

The steviol glycoside powder can be purchased from a commercial supplier, such as Cargill, Incorporated (Minneapolis, Minnesota). The steviol glycoside powder used in the process of the present disclosure is composed of rebaudioside A, steviol glycosides other than rebaudioside A, and non-steviol glycosides, the sum of which equals 100%. The non-steviol glycosides are extracted from the leaf of the genus Stevia as a result of the purification of the steviol glycosides from crude Stevia extracts. In one embodiment, no more than 20 wt. % non-steviol glycosides on a dry weight basis is present in a steviol glycoside powder having about 70 wt. % to about 99.5 wt. % rebaudioside A on a dry weight basis. In another embodiment, no more than 20 wt. % non-steviol glycosides on a dry weight basis is present in a steviol glycoside powder having about 80 wt. % to about 97 wt. % rebaudioside A on a dry weight basis.

In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside powder that is used in the present disclosure has either an amorphous or crystalline structure. Several crystalline forms of a steviol glycoside powder, for example, rebaudioside A, have been identified, for example, PCT Publication Number PCT/US2008/000700 assigned to Cargill, Incorporated. Each form has unique physical characteristics such as solubility in water. It is advantageous that the process of the present disclosure does not substantially alter the morphology of the steviol glycoside powder. That is, the morphology of the steviol glycoside agglomerate is

substantially similar to the morphology of the steviol glycoside powder. In other words, if the steviol glycoside powder is amorphous, the steviol glycoside agglomerate will be amorphous, and if the steviol glycoside powder is a certain crystalline morphology, the steviol glycoside agglomerate will maintain the same crystal morphology. Maintaining the morphology maintains the dissolution rate of the steviol glycoside powder.

In some embodiments, the steviol glycoside powder that is used in the process of the present disclosure has an average particle size of from about 1 micron to about 150 microns, preferably from about 20 microns to about 75 microns. In other embodiments, the steviol glycoside agglomerate has an average particle size of from about 50 microns to about 425 microns, preferably from about 75 microns to about 325 microns.

Methods of agglomerating are well known. The following are techniques that may be used with the present disclosure.

Fluidized Bed Agglomeration: Fluidized bed agglomeration is well known in the art and is used to process materials into powdered agglomerates. The process is described in U.S. Patent Numbers 2,856,290; 3,251 ,695; and 3,433,644. Typically, in both continuous and batch fluid bed agglomeration processes, finely divided particles are sprayed onto a fluidized bed of particles under moisture and temperature conditions which promote formation of an agglomerate. Often, the process involves heating at least one of the components of the agglomerate to a temperature above its melting point.

In the process of the present disclosure, the steviol glycoside powder is placed into a removable bowl of a fluid bed agglomerator. After the bowl is secured to the fluid bed agglomerator, the steviol glycoside powder is fluidized and heated as necessary by adjusting the inlet air temperature. Preferably, the temperature of the inlet air is maintained between 50° C. and 100° C. For example, to heat the fluidized steviol glycoside powder to about 40° C, the inlet air temperature may be adjusted to between 60° C. and 90° C. preferably. The solvent is added in the form of a mist or spray so that the amount of solvent at any one time does not exceed 20 % by weight of the total amount of steviol glycoside powder in the agglomerating chamber. In some embodiments, the solvent is introduced into the

agglomeration chamber from the top of the tower and the solvent is sprayed onto the fluidized steviol glycoside powder. The solvent may comprise water, ethanol, isopropanol, methanol, and mixtures thereof. In some embodiments, the solvent is water, ethanol, and mixtures thereof. In a preferred embodiment, the solvent is water. In some embodiments, the water is sprayed at a rate from about 2 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder to about 8 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder, or from about 4 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder to about 6 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder, for about 15 minutes to about 300 minutes. In some embodiments, the water is sprayed at a rate from about 2 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder to about 8 g/min kg of steviol glycoside powder, or from about 4 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder to about 6 g/min/kg of steviol glycoside powder, for about 30 minutes to about 150 minutes. The temperature of the solvent is at ambient temperature, for example, about 20° C. to about 25° C. Following the application of a solvent onto the fluidized steviol glycoside powder, an agglomerate is formed.

It is also within the scope of the disclosure to heat the solvent in order to operate the fluidized bed agglomerator at a lower temperature. For example, the solvent may be heated to a temperature ranging from about 20° C. to about 75° C, more typically ranging from about 60° C. to about 75° C. It is understood that the higher the air temperature the faster is the evaporation time and the shorter is the time to agglomerate the steviol glycoside powder.

Temperature of the steviol glycoside powder can be controlled in three primary ways: (1) the heat source used to heat the fluidizing air can be adjusted up or down and thereby change the temperature of the steviol glycoside powder being fluidized; (2) by changing the spray rate of the solvent into the agglomerator, the temperature of the steviol glycoside powder can be changed. By increasing the spray rate, the additional solvent and evaporation will cool the steviol glycoside powder, and inversely by slowing down or stopping the spray, the system temperature is allowed to rebound and thereby increase the temperature of the steviol glycoside powder; and (3) in some batch or continuous agglomerators, heating blocks or coils can be in the stream of the steviol glycoside powder itself. By adjusting the temperature of the heaters, the temperature of the steviol glycoside powder can be affected. The temperature of the steviol glycoside powder of the present disclosure is controlled by the heat source used to heat the fluidizing air, and by changing the spray rate of the solvent into the agglomerator. A steviol glycoside agglomerate is formed following the application of the solvent onto the fluidized steviol glycoside powder.

The system described herein is considered a batch system. Models GPCG 59 and LA- 910, manufactured by Glatt GmbH, Germany, are examples of fluid bed agglomerators used in the process of the present disclosure. A continuous fluidized bed agglomerator may be used to produce the steviol glycoside agglomerates of the present disclosure. Preferably, a batch fluidized bed agglomerator is used to produce the steviol glycoside agglomerates.

Continuous System Agglomeration: Another agglomeration technique is the use of a continuous system in which the steviol glycoside powder is placed on a conveyor belt surrounded by a closed chamber. Moisture, typically in the form of saturated steam is introduced in the first section of the belt. The steviol glycoside powder picks up this moisture. The fluidized steviol glycoside powder is being tumbled and agitated, as it is moving through the chamber on the conveyor belt. The moisture gained is released as the steviol glycoside agglomerate is dried by a flow of air.

Alternate Continuous System Agglomeration: It is possible to agglomerate the steviol glycoside powder using a spray drier chamber. This technique may be considered as a combination of the fluidized bed and the conveyor belt system. The steviol glycoside powder is introduced into the chamber from the top of the tower and it encounters moist air as it descends through the drier chamber. The air may contain sufficient moisture to raise the moisture content of the steviol glycoside powder by about 5% by weight. The moisture is then lost as the steviol glycoside agglomerate is separated from the air in the cyclone.

Continuous Turbulent Flow Agglomeration: An example of a continuous turbulent flow agglomerator is Schugi Flex-O-Mix and Turbulizer, Hosokawa Bepex Corp.,

Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The process of the present disclosure does not alter the chemical composition of the steviol glycoside agglomerate relative to the steviol glycoside powder, unlike prior art agglomerations of high intensity sweeteners. The process increases the particle size in order to reduce or eliminate the disadvantages associated with working with small particle sizes below 75 micron, e.g., dusting. The process of the present disclosure does not significantly alter the sweetness intensity on a weight basis for the steviol glycoside agglomerate relative to the steviol glycoside powder. The steviol glycoside agglomerate of the present disclosure is preferably dried to remove excess solvent. This drying step can occur simultaneous during agglomerate formation or thereafter in a later step or some combination thereof. The solvent provides a means to adhere the individual powder particles together. It is beneficial to remove the agglomerating solvent to below a level that will cause decomposition of the steviol glycoside agglomerate. Typically, this is achieved by drying to less than about 8% by weight of the agglomerate. However, the inventors unexpectedly observed that over-drying can be detrimental to the friability of the agglomerate so a small amount of residual solvent is intentionally left in the agglomerate. Typically, this would be about no less than 2% by weight of the agglomerate. The drying step of the present disclosure provides an added benefit.

The steviol glycoside agglomerate is prepared by individual particles adhering one to another to build up the steviol glycoside agglomerate. Without being bound by any theory, the solvent that is sprayed onto the surface performs the function of providing a liquid surface on the individual particles allowing them to adhere one to the other. The solvent is evaporated either simultaneous to the agglomeration process or thereafter leaving the composition of the steviol glycoside agglomerate unchanged. Unlike other forms of agglomeration, no particles are dissolved and later coalesced on other particles (e.g., mass is not being transferred from one particle to another).

Methods to produce steviol glycoside powder typically utilize water and other organic solvents, such as C1 -C4 alcohols, typically methanol and ethanol. The steviol glycoside powder thus produced contains residual quantities of the organic solvent or solvents up to 5000 ppm. In some applications, it is desirable to produce steviol glycoside powder with low residual solvent levels to meet regulatory and consumer demands for a natural product having little or no organic solvents. The inventors unexpectedly observed that the added benefit of the drying step is that the solvents used to isolate and purify the steviol glycoside powder can also be reduced during the process of the present disclosure. For example, ethanol can be reduced to levels below 200 ppm. Unlike many prior art processes where binding agents or carriers are used, the process for producing a steviol glycoside agglomerate of the present disclosure does not utilize binding agents or carriers. Binding agents facilitate the

agglomeration of a sweetener to the carrier. Exemplary binding agents include starch, starch derivatives such as maltodextrin and corn syrup, sucrose, hydrolyzed protein, glycerol, lecithin, soluble fiber such as inulin and polydextrose, gums such as xanthan gum, gum arabic, gellan gum, hydroxypropylmethyl cellulose (HPMC), and carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), and mixtures thereof. Exemplary carriers include dextrose, citric acid, maltodextrin, dextrose-maltodextrin blends, lactose, inulin, polyols such as erythritol, sorbitol, isomalt, and maltitol, protein such as casein, and mixtures thereof. For example, U.S. Patent Numbers 6,180,157 describes a process for preparing an agglomerate of N-pvf-(3,3-dimethylbutyl)-L- a-aspartyl]-L-phenylalanine 1 -methyl ester and a carrier. U.S. Patent Number 7,179,488 reports a process of creating agglomerated particles containing an herbal extract comprising combining a wetted herbal extract with dry silicified microcrystalline cellulose in a spray dryer and spray during to form agglomerated particles.

Surprisingly, in the process of the present disclosure, no carriers or binding agents are used and, hence, would satisfy consumer demand for reducing the number of ingredients in product formulations and to provide a natural sweetener.

The Agglomerate

Currently, steviol glycoside powders are typically available with small particle sizes, typically 20 to 50 microns. The small particle size can lead to product loss through dusting and inaccurate dosing of material into product formulations. A steviol glycoside agglomerate without binding agents or carriers of the present disclosure is desirable to reduce product loss through dusting and to have consistent product formulation without diluting the sweetness of the steviol glycoside. Also, a steviol glycoside agglomerate without binding agents or carriers is desirable to meet consumer demand for reducing the number of ingredients in product formulations and to provide a natural sweetener.

The steviol glycoside agglomerate is essential homogeneous throughout the entire agglomerate. The steviol glycoside agglomerate unexpectedly is not easily friable (e.g., it can withstand normal crushing forces) even without the need for binding agents or carriers. Another added benefit is that the steviol glycoside agglomerate has a high surface area rendering it with the ability to rapidly dissolve in food formulations. Also, the taste profile of the agglomerate before or after dissolution is unchanged relative to the steviol glycoside powder. This is significant in order to maintain the clean taste profile of the steviol glycoside agglomerate. The steviol glycoside agglomerate of the present disclosure reduces product loss through the reduction of dusting, for example, and provides ease of processing and handling compared to a steviol glycoside powder.

The particle size distribution of the steviol glycoside agglomerate may be determined by sifting the agglomerate through the screens of various sizes. For example, the steviol glycoside agglomerate may be sifted with screens ranging in size from 10 mesh to 200 mesh or higher. Typically, at least about 80% of the particles of the steviol glycoside agglomerate will pass through a 40 mesh screen and less than about 40% of the steviol glycoside agglomerate particles will pass through 100 mesh screen. In general, less than about 65% of the particles of the steviol glycoside agglomerate will pass through a 60 mesh screen and less than about 10% of the steviol glycoside agglomerate particles will pass through a 200 mesh screen. Typically, at least 70% of the particles of the steviol glycoside agglomerate are between about 40 mesh and 200 mesh in size.

In one aspect, the steviol glycoside agglomerate has from about 80 wt. % to about 97 wt. % steviol glycoside and no more than 20 wt. % non-steviol glycosides on a dry weight basis based upon the total amount of the agglomerate. In another aspect, the steviol glycoside agglomerate has about 97 wt. % steviol glycoside on a dry weight basis based upon the total amount of the agglomerate. In other embodiments, the steviol glycoside agglomerate is comprised of particles, more than 20% of which are greater in size than 100 mesh and more than about 8% of which are greater than 60 mesh, or wherein more than about 40 percent are smaller in size than 200 mesh, or wherein at least 60% percent are between about 200 mesh and 60 mesh in size.

In another embodiment, the steviol glycoside agglomerate has an average particle size of from about 50 microns to about 425 microns. In another embodiment, the steviol glycoside agglomerate has an average particle size of from about 75 microns to about 325 microns.

The steviol glycoside agglomerate may be screened to produce a narrower particle size distribution, if desired. For example, a 16 mesh screen may be used to remove large particles and produce a product of especially good appearance. Particles smaller than 200 mesh may be removed to obtain an agglomerate with improved flow properties. A narrower particle size distribution may be obtained if desired for particular applications.

The particle size distribution of the steviol glycoside agglomerate may be controlled by a variety of factors, including the spray rate of the solvent, temperature, and time. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that a desired particle size distribution may be obtained by varying one or more of the aforementioned factors. For example, increasing the spray rate is known to increase the average particle size.

In another aspect, a steviol glycoside agglomerate has an average particle size greater than 100 microns that will dissolve 1 g per 99 g in water at a temperature of about 25° C. for up to about 5 minutes. In yet another aspect, a steviol glycoside

agglomerate has a bulk density of from about 0.45 g per cc to about 0.7 g per cc,

preferably from about 0.5 g per cc to about 0.6 g per cc.

The steviol glycoside agglomerate can be used in any food and beverage applications, for example, ice cream and frozen desserts, dry mixes, tabletop, cereals, baked goods, condiments, yogurt, dairy, jam, jellies and preserves, confectionery including chocolate, hard and soft candies, mints, gum and cough drops, meat, prepared mixes, meal replacement bars, savory bars, spreads, fruit fillings, dressings, soups, sauces, baby foods, pudding, carbonated beverages, non-carbonated beverages, powdered beverages, ready-to-drink beverages, alcoholic beverages, nonalcoholic beverages, coffee, and tea. The steviol glycoside agglomerate can be also used in a flavored product and in flavors. EXAMPLES

The following examples are presented to illustrate the present disclosure and to assist one of ordinary skill in making and using the same. The examples are not intended in any way to otherwise limit the scope of the disclosure.

Dissolution of the samples in Examples 1 and 2 is measured according to the following procedure: 0.5 gram is weighed and added into a 70 ml culture tube. 50 grams of water are added to create a 1 % sample to solvent (wt/wt). The sample is mixed at a temperature of about 25° C. on a vortex or shaker system for 30 seconds but no longer than 5 minutes. The mixing continues until the sample is completely dissolved or 5 minutes has expired. The sample is "soluble" if it dissolves completely before 5 minutes has expired; the sample is "insoluble" if the sample is cloudy or is not clear as water after 5 minutes of mixing. In addition, a turbidity meter (Thermo Scientific Orion Turbidimeter AQ4500, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Beverly, Massachusetts) was used to measure the turbidity of the samples and calibrated between 0-1000 ntu following the manufacturer's user guide.

The intrinsic flowability was measured using the Dow-Lepetit device (Model #21- 101-05, Janson Research Corp., USA) following the standard operating procedure as outlined in the Flodex operation manual 21-101-000 included with the equipment. Results of 0.5 are considered poor flowability and a flowability index of 2 is considered very good flowability.

EXAMPLE 1. Preparation of crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate

About 7.5 kilograms of a crystalline steviol glycoside powder comprising about 80 wt. % rebaudioside A having an average particle size of 21 microns, 1.6 wt. % moisture, and 823 ppm ethanol (Product 09201 , obtained from Cargill, Incorporated, Minneapolis, Minnesota) was charged into a removable bowl of a batch fluid bed agglomeration unit (Model GPCG 59, Glatt GmbH, Germany). The steviol glycoside powder was fluidized and heated to 40° C. by adjusting the inlet air temperature of the agglomeration unit to between 60° C. and 75° C. Water, at ambient temperature, was sprayed into the fluid bed at a spray rate and for a time as specified in Table 1. The water spray rate for each of the trials was adjusted during each trial in order to maintain the temperature of the crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate to about 40° C. The average particle size of the steviol glycoside agglomerate is shown in Table 2 as measured by mesh sieves and the particle size distribution in Figure 1 , as measured by a laser scattering particle size distribution analyzer (Model LA- 910, Horiba, Ltd., Japan).

Table 1. Composition of crystalline steviol glycoside powder

Table 2. Properties of crystalline steviol glycoside powder ("Powder") and crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate ("Agglom")

Table 3. Particle size analysis of crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate

This example demonstrates that the time and amount of water sprayed on the crystalline steviol glycoside powder affected the average particle size and ethanol levels. Increasing the processing times and the amount of water sprayed onto the crystalline steviol glycoside powder increased the average particle size and reduced ethanol levels in the crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate. Steviol glycoside powder and Trial 1 was soluble; Trials 2 and 3 were insoluble. Without being bound by any theory, the water in Trials 2 and 3 may have exceeded 20% by weight of the total amount of crystalline steviol glycoside powder in the agglomerating chamber.

EXAMPLE 2. Preparation of crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate

350 or 500 kilograms of crystalline steviol glycoside powders at purity levels ranging from about 98.0 to about 99.5% rebaudioside A having an average particle size, moisture content, and ethanol content as shown in Table 4 (obtained from Cargill, Incorporated, Minneapolis, Minnesota), were charged into a removable bowl of a batch fluid bed agglomeration unit (Model GPCG 300, Glatt, GmbH, Germany). Each crystalline steviol glycoside powder was fluidized and heated to 40° C by adjusting the inlet air temperature of the agglomeration unit to between 70° C and 90° C. Water, at ambient temperature, was sprayed into the fluid bed at a certain spray rate for a period of time as specified in Table 5. The water spray rate for each of the trials was adjusted during each trial in order to maintain the temperature of the crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate to about 40° C. The water was turned off and the fluid bed was heated to 45° C for 45 minutes to 100 minutes to dry the resulting crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate. The crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate contained less than 200 ppm ethanol when 350 kilograms of the steviol glycoside powder was used. The average particle size of the crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate is shown in Table 6 as measured by mesh sieves and the particle size distribution in Figure 2 as measured by laser scattering particle size distribution analyzer (Model LA-910, Horiba, Ltd., Japan).

Table 4. Composition of crystalline steviol glycoside powder (Powder A, Powder B, Powder C)

Table 5. Properties of crystalline steviol glycoside powder ("Powder") and crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate ("Agglom")

Table 6. Particle size analysis of crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate

This example demonstrates that the process of the present disclosure produces a crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate where the majority (greater than 50%) is larger than 150 microns (equivalent to 100 mesh). The agglomeration process produced crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerates with about 5x increase in average particle size and a significant decrease in the size of the distribution. The example also demonstrates that the water flow rate and time of agglomeration can be manipulated to produce a specific average particle size in the crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate and to reduce the residual solvent level to a desired level in the crystalline steviol glycoside agglomerate. Raw materials A-C and Trials A-F were soluble.

EXAMPLE 3. Preparation of amorphous steviol glycoside agglomerate

About 7.5 kilograms of an amorphous steviol glycoside powder comprising about 80 wt. % rebaudioside A (see Table 7) having an average particle size of 56 microns, 4.2 wt. % moisture, and 3267 ppm ethanol (Product 09251, obtained from Cargill, Incorporated, Minneapolis,

Minnesota) was charged into a removable bowl of a batch fluid bed agglomeration unit (Model GPCG 59, Glatt GmbH, Germany). The amorphous steviol glycoside powder was fluidized and heated to 36° C. by adjusting the inlet air temperature of the agglomeration unit to between 60° C. and 75° C. Water, at ambient temperature, was sprayed into the fluid bed at a spray rate and for a time as specified in Table 8. The water spray rate in Trial i was adjusted in order to maintain the temperature of the amorphous steviol glycoside agglomerate to about 40° C. The average particle size of the amorphous steviol glycoside agglomerate is shown in Table 9 as measured by mesh sieves and the particle size distribution in Figure 3 as measured by a laser scattering particle size distribution analyzer (Model LA-910, Horiba, Ltd., Japan).

Table 7. Composition of amorphous steviol glycoside powder

Table 8. Properties of amorphous steviol glycoside powder ("Powder") and amorphous steviol glycoside agglomerate ("Agglom")

Table 9. Particle size analysis of amorphous steviol glycoside agglomerate

The results in Tables 8 and 9 show that the average particle size of the amorphous steviol glycoside agglomerates can be increased from about two to about 4 times compared to the average particle size of the amorphous steviol glycoside powder. Both trials i and ii produce amorphous steviol glycoside agglomerates with the majority of their particles ranging from about 74 microns to about 149 microns (corresponding to 200 to 100 mesh).

This Example 3 demonstrates that the time and/or amount of water sprayed on the amorphous steviol glycoside powder affected the average particle size and ethanol levels. It appears that increasing the processing and drying times of water sprayed onto the amorphous steviol glycoside powder can increase the average particle size and reduce ethanol levels in the amorphous steviol glycoside agglomerate. The amorphous steviol glycoside powder and Trials i and ii were soluble.

Other embodiments of this disclosure will be apparent to those skilled in the art upon consideration of this specification or from practice of the disclosure disclosed herein. Various omissions, modifications, and changes to the principles and embodiments described herein may be made by one skilled in the art without departing from the true scope and spirit of the disclosure which is indicated by the following claims. All patents, patent documents, and publications cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference as if individually incorporated.