Sweetose: Better Candy from the Chemistry Lab
The astro-turf group calling itself The Center for Consumer Freedom has once again taken up the high fructose corn syrup cause. New ads in national papers and TV stations are meant to mock those concerned with possible health effects of this corn syrup derivative, and to reassure the public that HFCS is just another sugar.
All the corn dust kicking around got me interested in the whole history of HFCS. While I learn about that, allow me to share a little something with you this HFCS precursor: Sweetose.
Sweetose was a “high-sugar-content” corn syrup manufactured by the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company, of Decatur IL. In 1938, Staley patented an enzymatic conversion process that would transform regular corn syrup made up of the single sugar glucose into a sweeter syrup with different chemical properties, made up of glucose and maltose. In addition to industrial applications, Staley marketed Sweetose in consumer formulations as a pancake syrup and baking ingredient, similar to Caro syrup.
The ad above is from 1950, from a candy manufacturer’s trade journal. Sweetose promises to add quality and sales appeal:
Sample candy with and without Sweetose…discover immediately how this enzyme-converted corn syrup increases tenderness and intensifies flavors. And Sweetose prolongs freshness, too!
The Staley patent expired in 1955. This opened up the field for others to experiment with enzyme conversion processes, leading to the development of the process that would produce high fructose corn syrup in 1957. But it was not until 1970 that Japanese scientist Dr. Y. Takasaki perfected an industrial process for HFCS production. HFCS was quickly adopted by the food industry, and here we are today.
Sources: Staley advertisement, Confectioners Journal 1950; High-fructose corn syrup, Wikipedia; A History of Lactic Acid Making: A chapter in the history of biotechnology, By Harm Benninga (1990), p 414, Google Books.