Israeli startup Better Juice has teamed up with several U.S.-based global beverage companies to commercialize its sugar-reduction technology, according to Food Navigator. Last year, the startup struck a partnership with Brazilian orange juice producer Citrosuco to build a pilot plant to scale the enzymatic technology that the company says can reduce sugar in orange juice between 30% and 80%.
Better Juice has developed a solution that uses non-GMO microorganisms and natural enzymes to convert naturally occurring sucrose, glucose and fructose into prebiotics and dietary fiber without adding any additional ingredients. The process also does not alter texture or vitamin composition, but it does reduce the juice’s sweetness between 15% and 20%.
Manufacturers using this technology will be able to comply with the FDA-required 25% sugar reduction threshold in order to employ the “reduced sugar” claims on food and beverage products.
Better Juice told Food Navigator it hopes to fully commercialize its technology within the year. However, when it scales up in the market, it will not be the only sugar reduction company vying for manufacturers’ attention.
In recent years the race to reduce sugar has picked up steam. About 71% of consumers read the sugar content on labels and 46% want to reduce their sugar consumption, according to surveys. With so much demand, ingredient companies have focused heavily on innovation to reduce the overall sugar content of products. Ingredion introduced a line of low-sugar glucose syrups in 2017 to help food manufacturers reduce the amount of added sugar shown on Nutrition Facts panels. Additionally, Kerry developed TasteSense, a natural flavoring solution designed to bring back sweetness that’s lost when sugar is reduced. Global food giant Nestlé created a “hollow sugar” that causes a person to perceive the same level of sweetness but still consume less sugar. Another Israeli startup, DouxMatok, raised $22 million last year to scale up its sugar reduction solution which the company says reduces up to 40% of the sugar content in various foods and baked goods while retaining the same taste profile.
What makes Better Juice different is that it converts the sugars that are naturally in orange juice to other compounds. As a category, fruit juice has been declining in recent years, as consumers look to limit their sugar intake. Some researchers have equated the nutritional value of juice with soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. And research has shown regular consumption of fruit juice creates bigger health risks than those coming from soda. A 2019 study published in JAMA Network found that each 12-ounce daily serving of fruit juice is associated with a 24% higher mortality risk.
Juice manufacturers have worked to develop alternatives to the sugar-laden versions in their portfolios. In the juice category, which Better Juice is targeting, low sugar options abound. PepsiCo’s Tropicana brand features Trop50 that has 50% less sugar than traditional juice, but the juice is sweetened with stevia. Similarly, Coca-Cola owned Minute Maid has a zero-sugar line, but it does not feature orange juice. It also sweetens juices with aspartame.
If Better Juice can scale up sufficiently to help large manufacturers convert the natural sugars in their juice, there is a chance its technology will take off. Not only will it cater to the ongoing consumer demand for less sugar, but it will also help manufacturers respond to the onslaught of demand for immunity-boosting juice during the pandemic while catering to consumers’ desire for healthy alternatives. Orange juice was the best-performing commodity in the first quarter of 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported. Having a reduced-sugar alternative for immunity-boosting juices will likely attract even more attention as consumers look for ways to keep themselves healthy.