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What are polyols?

Polyols are carbohydrates but they are not sugars. They are also called ‘sugar alcohols' because their chemical structure resembles partly sugar and partly alcohol but they are neither sugars, nor alcohol. Some of them are found naturally in various fruits and vegetables. Polyols may be used in food either for sweetening purposes or for technological purposes, e.g. bulking agents, emulsifiers, stabilisers, humectants, thickeners and texturisers.

Polyols are bulking ingredients with many technological properties similar to sugars, with varying degrees of sweetness (less or the same as sucrose) . In addition they have proven benefits in trems of dental health, improved glycaemic control and calorie-reduction. These properties make them a unique asset in health food formulation.

The most widely used polyols are Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Isomalt, Lactitol, Xylitol and Erythritol.

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How are polyols produced?

Some polyols are found naturally in various fruits and vegetables, for example sorbitol in plums, erythritol in grapes, or xylitol in mushrooms.

In order to obtain them in volumes required by their technological and nutritional use in a broad range of food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications, industrial processes are applied.

Starting materials are all from natural sources (corn, wheat, sugar beet, milk, etc.).

Depending on the agricultural source, the carbohydrates contained are processed as such, or in the case of corn or wheat enzymatically hydrolysed, i.e. cut by selected enzymes in smaller units. The resulting mono-, di-, oligo- or polysaccharides are then treated with hydrogen and further purified before packaging. Polyols can also be obtained by fermentation process, as with erythritol.

Polyols are commercially available in powdered and liquid forms.

The highest European quality and traceability standards, from raw materials to finished products, are applied by EPA members for the production of their polyols. Quality Management Systems are validated by third-party auditors from appropriate certification bodies.