We all know that consuming too much table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup can contribute to chronic health issues, and artificial sweeteners are problematic too.
The World Health Organization’s new recommendation to avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharine, sucralose and stevia cites evidence of no lasting benefit in reducing body fat and possible increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even mortality with long-term use.
That’s on top of previous reports about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, such as Israeli studies showing that six FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are toxic to digestive gut microbes and three interfere with bacterial communication.
While the WHO advises us “to consider other ways to reduce free sugars intake, such as consuming food with naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, or unsweetened food and beverages,” the food and beverage industry still needs to satisfy the world’s sweet tooth.
Israeli companies are on the case, with a variety of products on the market or in development to reduce consumption of added sugar.
1. DouxMatok tinkered with the way sugar is delivered to the taste buds, resulting in Incredo Sugar, a product that enables manufacturers to use 30 to 50 percent less sugar without sacrificing the perception of sweetness.
Recently, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding round and rebranded as Incredo.
Made from cane sugar, Incredo Sugar is already found in snacks such as chocolate chip cookies, nutritional gummy bears, chocolate bars, hazelnut spread and energy bars. TIME magazine called it one of the best 100 inventions of 2020.
2. CarobWay debuted its low glycemic index sweetener at the IFT FIRST 2023 trade show in Chicago in July. The syrup, derived from whole carob fruit, provides a mild caramel flavor and promotes wellbeing too.
“You can plug our natural sugar easily into almost any food and beverage application,” said Udi Alroy, CEO and cofounder of CarobWay. “Many carob sweeteners can have a faint bitter note, but CarobWay’s sweetener is clean and flavorful.”
The syrup contains natural sugars and D-pinitol, an organic compound with a sweetness about 50% that of sucrose. D-pinitol has been shown to lower blood glucose levels, among other health benefits such as supporting immunity and liver health.
“This is good news for prediabetics who desire to enjoy pastry confections and sweets,” says Monica Colt, scientific director for CarobWay.
3. Ambrosia Bio is working toward the scalable and affordable production of allulose, a naturally sweet carbohydrate.
Small amounts of allulose are found in figs, raisins, wheat, maple syrup and molasses. It can replace table sugar one-to-one, with up to 95 percent fewer calories and virtually no effect on blood glucose.
Allulose could be used in both solid and liquid products that would be labeled “no added sugar,” a critical marketing claim.
However, allulose was only approved by the FDA in 2019 as a sugar replacement and isn’t cheap or abundant enough to supply big companies interested in using it.
Ambrosia Bio proposes producing allulose from low-cost feedstock (sucrose, starch, or even food manufacturing side streams) using an enzyme catalyst.
Founder and CEO Ziv Zwighaft says the company plans to help clients revamp existing sugar refineries to produce allulose, providing “everything for the process from raw materials to engineering.”
Ambrosia is now raising funds to set up a production facility in Israel and is working with Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks to find the optimal organisms from which to generate its catalytic enzyme. Various players in the food and beverage industry are evaluating the product in the meantime.
4. Better Juice recently completed pilot trials of its sugar-reduction beads for fruit juices, in partnership with food-processing technology giant GEA Group in Germany.
Dozens of American, European, Australian and Brazilian manufacturers successfully reduced simple sugar content by up to half in strawberry, cherry and blueberry juices, while preserving their flavor, texture and nutritional value.
“Fruit juices contain 10% or more sugar, with berry and cherry juices comprised of 10% to 20% sucrose and the remainder fructose and glucose,” explains Eran Blachinsky, cofounder and co-CEO of Better Juice. “Our technology reduces loads of all three of these simple sugars.”
The sugar-reduction beads are non-GMO microorganisms that naturally convert the juice’s sugars into prebiotic oligosaccharides and other non-digestible fibers.
“We are currently in advanced discussions with several major US-based fruit juice companies to install our technology in their juice production systems. We project sugar-reduced berry fruit juices will reach the shelves early next year,” reports Gali Yarom, Better Juice cofounder and co-CEO.
5. Amai Proteins has won multiple awards for redesigning sweet proteins found in the jungle into a mass-market sugar substitute that tastes just like sugar. Amai means “sweet” in Japanese.
“Our first product, Sweelin, is a sustainable, 100% sweet protein that can reduce 40% to 70% of added sugar in a wide variety of food and beverages, without changing the consumer taste experience,” said CEO and founder Ilan Samish.
“The novel proteins mimic proteins that reside in harsh conditions, such as the Dead Sea, hot springs or acidic swamps, and are thus fit for the requirements for the mass food market.”
6. Sante from Lycored is a natural tomato-derived concentrate that enhances taste and reduces the need for added sugar and salt in food products. It’s available in liquid and powder form.
Lycored notes that Sante is approved as a flavoring in the US and EU, certified kosher and halal, and can help manufacturers “clean up your nutrition facts panels and remove added sugars from your ingredients list.”
7. Sweet Victory botanical chewing gum, designed to curb sugar cravings, keeps racking up awards – most recently, winning the distinction of “Most Innovative Finished Nutraceutical Product” at the Vitafoods Europe Innovation Challenge 2023.
The active ingredient is a native Indian natural botanical, gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre), known in traditional medicine as the “sugar destroyer” due to its ability to block the tongue’s taste receptors for sweetness and slow intestinal absorption of sugars.
In an independent consumer study of 80 participants, more than 80% reported cutting down on their intake of sweets by chewing Sweet Victory at least three times a day, either after meals, between meals, or whenever experiencing a sugar craving. Nine out of 10 participants reported measurable weight loss during the two-week trial.
“A significant decrease in the consumption of sweets was observed from the fourth day until the end of the experiment compared to the first days, suggesting an enduring effect,” said cofounder and psychologist Gitit Lahav.
8. Fruitlift from Gat Foods, a natural liquid composed of 90% fruit components, replaces table sugar fully or partially in breakfast cereals. Most breakfast cereals contain 15% to 40% refined sugar.
Fruitlift can be added to flour mixtures of puffed cereals in a variety of mild fruity flavors or sprayed onto finished cereal. Each formulation can be designed according to the manufacturer’s needs.
Fruitlift was conceived for Gat Foods by Practical Innovation, an Israeli company that finds new growth engines for traditional industries, in this case fruit-based beverage and food solutions.