A San Diego company that develops flavors for the food and beverage industry has created a new ingredient that makes sugar even sweeter. And it’s headed to supermarket shelves this fall.

The ingredient’s name: Sweetmyx S617.

In what it called a “commercial milestone,” the local flavor company, Senomyx, announced in an Aug. 28 press release that beverage giant PepsiCo would soon begin adding the new ingredient to two of its soft drinks — Manzanita Sol, nationwide, and Mug Root Beer, in two test markets in the United States.

Sweetmyx S617 is one of the food industry’s answers to our nation’s unhealthy obsession with sugar. The artificial ingredient, one of several similar additives developed by Senomyx, helps food and beverage companies reduce the calorie content of their products by amplifying the sweetness of sugar and other sweeteners.

The upshot: Companies like Pepsi can use less sugar or high fructose corn syrup in their products without sacrificing taste.

While Senomyx’s “sweetness enhancers” could be an important tool to help the nation fight obesity, some scientists and consumer groups wonder how much is really known about their safety.

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