RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. – One company in Rancho Santa Margarita is working to ensure that food has all the taste without the added calories in a sustainable, non-GMO way.

The age-old wisdom is that everything is “ok” in moderation, but a sweet tooth is hard to deny. Luca Giannone has managed to satisfy his sweet tooth with some black peach tea.

Giannone is the Vice President of Sales for SweeGen, a homegrown Orange County company that’s changing the way reduced and zero calorie foods and beverages can taste.

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“You have almost no aftertaste, bitter aftertaste. And it’s a much cleaner profile,” says Giannone.

While other sweetener companies use a fermentation process whereby a genetically modified microbe transforms sugar into a new molecule, SweeGen has next-level technology that produces a Stevia-based, non-genetically modified sweetener.

SweeGen’s sweeteners are present in some of the food and beverage industry’s biggest manufacturers because their process can sustainably mass-produce the molecules in the Stevia plant that are closer to the taste of sugar and don’t leave the consumer with a metallic aftertaste.

To give you an idea of how few of these molecules there are in the Stevia plant, you would have to cover the state of California in Stevia to pull it out of each plant for mass production.

“What we are doing today and the fact that we’ve already commercialized this technology to a very large quantity. And the fact that you already have a number of product out there that are already using our ingredient, it’s a testament of the success of this technology,” said Giannone.

With obesity rates climbing to nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, it is estimated that obesity-related health problems add $147 billion to annual healthcare spending.

Sugary drinks specifically are widely considered one of the leading contributors, which led over 30 countries and several California cities to adopt taxes on those beverages to deter consumers from buying them.

“Where you reduce sugar, sugar has different functionality in a product. Not just the sweetness part but also texture, mouth feel, balking and preservation, so many other things. So when you take out sugar it’s a complex system, and you need to somehow rebalance back all this functionality,” says Giannone.

Replacing all sugar may never be on the table, but science could certainly help trick your sweet tooth.