6 Dec 2023

SWEET: Sustainability of Sweeteners and Sweetness Enhancers

Horizon 2020 project

Over the past years Blonk has been involved in SWEET, a European Commission Horizon 2020 funded project. In the project evidence on long-term benefits and potential risks involved in switching over to sweeteners and sweetness enhancers (S&SEs) in the context of public health and safety, obesity, and sustainability has been developed and reviewed. As one of the 29 consortium partners we co-chaired together with the University of Surrey the work package (WP5) on sustainability implications of the use of S&SEs. In this perspective, we conducted various Life Cycle Sustainability Assessments (LCSA), including attributional and consequential and social LCAs and data development. The developed environmental datasets are now publicly available via our Portal.

More about SWEET

The 5-year multidisciplinary project engages stakeholders from across the food chain — consumers, patients, health professionals, scientists, policy makers, and regulators — to address the role of sweeteners in weight control, and potentially move viable products to market. Stakeholders, including consumers, patients, health professionals, scientists, policy makers, and regulators will engage in the project.

About Work Package 5 – Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment

The aim of this specific work package is to determine whether increased use of sweeteners & sweetness enhancers (S&SEs) offers a sustainable pathway to healthier diets, combatting obesity and improved food security in the European Union. Comprehensive sustainability assessment requires analysis of each of the environmental, economic, and social dimensions of the whole system involved in the producing and using S&SEs. Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) has been chosen as the key methodological approach and combines Environmental Life Cycle Assessment, Life Cycle Costing (economic) and Social Life Cycle Assessment.

As one of the last steps of the work package the developed environmental Life Cycle Inventory Data will be made publicly available.

Results: Environmental Life Cycle Assessment

Together with the University of Surrey we investigated the environmental performance of 4 sweeteners and 1 sweetness enhancers, with different origins. To compare the environmental performance of the S&SEs the results are shown on a sweetness equivalence basis, because sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar and never can replace sugar on a like-for-weight basis. Figure 1 shows the results for 5 impact categories (the study covers 16 impact categories). The results show that all S&SEs under study can reduce the environmental impact when replacing the sweet taste of sugar. However, it is not always possible to replace the bulk quantity of sugar with a tiny amount of sweetener. Sugar also plays a technical role in formulations such as cakes or biscuits, meaning that for this function the sugar also needs to be replaced. We are currently working on this topic, and a report is expected soon.

Table with environmental impact results

The table below shows the environmental impacts results of the S&SEs in scope per kg end-product, as those calculated by the SWEET project.

Table 1: Overview of results
(method: ReCiPe 2016 Midpoint H, software: SimaPro 9.3, databases used: ecoinvent 3.8, Agri-footprint 6.1)

Impact Category
Unit
Thaumatin (1 kg)
Steviol glycoside (1kg)
Neotame (1kg)
Aspartame (1kg)
Sucralose (1kg)

Global warming

kg CO2 eq

7.19E+02

1.61E+01

43.42

29.25

71.83

Stratospheric ozone depletion

kg CFC11 eq

3.39E-04

5.39E-05

4.06x10-5

1.06x10-5

1.20x10-4

Ionizing radiation

kBq Co-60 eq

2.22E+01

7.70E-01

1.64

1.09

3.95

Ozone formation, Human health

kg NOx eq

3.97

6.49E-02

0.28

5.66x10-2

1.63x10-1

Fine particulate matter formation

kg PM2.5 eq

1.06

3.61E-02

0.34

0.13

1.35x10-1

Ozone formation, Terrestrial ecosystems

kg NOx eq

4.01

6.88E-02

0.29

5.93x10-2

1.65x10-1

Terrestrial acidification

kg SO2 eq

2.41

9.65E-02

1.46

0.77

3.43x10-1

Freshwater eutrophication

kg P eq

1.50E-01

1.44E-02

3.23x10-2

1.16x10-2

9.03x10-2

Marine eutrophication

kg N eq

3.77E-02

7.17E-03

2.86x10-3

2.55x10-3

3.38x10-3

Terrestrial ecotoxicity

kg 1,4-DCB

2.76E+03

1.47E+02

148.17

1.24x102

352.42

Freshwater ecotoxicity

kg 1,4-DCB

2.76E+01

1.42

13.28

5.87

3.74

Marine ecotoxicity

kg 1,4-DCB

3.60E+01

1.79

11.90

1.65

4.79

Human carcinogenic toxicity

kg 1,4-DCB

2.75E+01

1.47

3.36

1.18

4.23

Human non-carcinogenic toxicity

kg 1,4-DCB

3.92E+02

3.28E+01

3.63x102

24.05

89.46

Land use

m2a crop eq

5.90E+04

3.79E+01

1.08

0.59

4.50

Mineral resource scarcity

kg Cu eq

2.03

9.96E-02

2.06

9.98x10-2

1.11

Fossil resource scarcity

kg oil eq

2.17E+02

4.58

17.53

12.18

16.29

Water consumption

m3

1.55

2.53

0.55

0.49

1.29

Download the Life Cycle Inventory Results

The Life Cycle Inventory Datasets are freely available via the Blonk Portal as CSV files:

  • Aspartame Neotame
  • Stevia
  • Sucralose
  • Thaumatin

More information

Get in touch

Elena Koukouna
Freelance consultant | Blonk Consultants

Do you have question about this project, or do want to know more about the sustainability of sweeteners and sweetness enhancers? Get in touch with Elena.