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Affordable & Nutritious Sweetener Options for a Healthier Lifestyle

Sweet Success for Allulose

Ziv Zwighaft is heralding a revolutionary discovery in the realm of sugar replacement with his statement, “We believe it is the holy grail of sugar replacement.” The focus of this breakthrough is a white granulated powder known as allulose. About 70% as sweet as sugar, allulose boasts minimal calories and negligible impact on blood sugar levels, making it a standout contender in the glycemic index.

Allulose: From Niche to Mainstream

First approved for use in the US over a decade ago, allulose, often termed a “rare sugar,” has faced limitations due to its expensive production process. However, Ambrosia Bio, Dr. Zwighaft’s Israeli-based startup, is disrupting the market with a cost-effective approach, utilizing a proprietary enzyme from a genetically modified microorganism. The goal is to partner with sugar producers and propel allulose into mainstream usage, addressing the growing demand for healthier sugar alternatives.

Global Trends and Sugar Substitutes

As rates of obesity and diabetes soar, consumers are actively seeking better sugar alternatives, paving the way for a surge in the global sugar substitute industry. According to Gaurav Sahni, an analyst at GreyB, a consulting firm specializing in innovation, the industry is on an upward trajectory. Governments are contributing to this trend through measures like sugar taxes. GreyB projects that the global sugar substitute market, currently valued at around $17 billion (ยฃ14 billion), will exceed $28 billion (ยฃ23 billion) in a decade.

Existing Alternatives: The Shortcomings

While numerous sugar substitutes already exist, including artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose, as well as natural options like stevia and monk fruit, they often fall short in taste and functionality. Polyols or sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, have gained traction but come with aftertaste and mouth-feel challenges. Moreover, these alternatives struggle to replicate sugar’s crucial roles in texture, color, and shelf-life.

Safety Concerns and Regulatory Perspectives

The sugar substitute landscape is not without safety concerns. Erythritol has been linked to strokes and heart attacks, prompting debates over its safety. Aspartame has received a “possibly carcinogenic” designation from WHO cancer experts, raising questions about its long-term effects. In May, the WHO made a general recommendation against non-sugar sweeteners, citing potential risks to weight control, diabetes, and cardiovascular health.

Innovations on the Horizon

Despite these challenges, startups are paving the way for improvement. Ambrosia Bio’s pursuit of affordable rare sugar finds companions in initiatives like Bonumose’s production of tagatose and The Supplant Company’s development of a low-calorie, low-glycemic sweetener from agricultural waste. Incredo, another Israeli startup, enhances sugar sweetness by embedding crystals with inert mineral silica.

Sweet Proteins: A Tastier Alternative

Enter sweet proteins, naturally occurring in equatorial fruits and berries and thousands of times sweeter than sugar. US-based startup Oobli is fermenting sugar using genetically modified yeast to produce sweet proteins. Ali Wing, Oobli’s chief executive, attests, “Sweet proteins absolutely work in sodas.”

Overcoming Hurdles: The Road Ahead

Despite these innovations, startups face challenges in customer acquisition, reformulating products, and demonstrating scalability. The reluctance of consumers to embrace new products further adds to the hurdles. However, these pioneers are optimistic about reshaping the sugar landscape, offering not just alternatives but a healthier and tastier future.

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