The technology to “eliminate sugar” has arrived

The technology to “eliminate sugar” has arrived

Startups are using human digestion and technology to bring sugar-busting innovations to market, from enzymes that turn sugar into fiber to sugar “sponges” that activate after they’re consumed.

Zero sugar food and beverage markets are expected to grow in 2024 as consumers continue to look for products that support their health.

According to Brightfield Group, low sugar content is the leading nutritional attribute sought by consumers in 2023, with 42.3% of respondents citing it as a priority. No added sugar is also the most preferred ingredient, claiming 44.1% of responses across generations.

Zero sugar has gradually “replaced what the diet was” and has become a claim that consumers look for on packaging, said Scott Dicker, director of market insights at SPINS. FoodNavigator-USA.

The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day, or 270 calories, far more than the 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women recommended by the American Heart Association.

Enzymes from sugar to fiber

To meet consumer demand for less sugar, a growing number of researchers and startups are developing ingredients to eliminate sugar.

In February 2024, the food technology company Zya introduced Convero, a suitable enzyme substance that can convert up to 30% of the sugar consumed into fiber when it reaches the digestive system.

“We want to harness the power of enzymes to transform the way our bodies use food,” said Zya CEO and co-founder Joshua Sauer With cable.

The UK-based startup believes food manufacturers will be interested in adding its enzyme directly to food products such as cereals and snacks, and is targeting a US launch in 2026, pending FDA approval.

Major food manufacturers are certainly in the market for these innovations.

In late 2022, Kraft Heinz tapped researchers from Harvard’s Wyss Institute to study how the company could reduce the amount of sugar used in their foods without sacrificing the ingredient’s other properties.

The final product uses a different enzyme variation naturally found in plants that converts sugar into fiber once it reaches the digestive system.

The researchers say the enzyme can be incorporated into existing recipes without changing their sugar content — an attractive feature for food manufacturers seeking to preserve the taste and texture of original recipes.

Wyss is currently licensing the technology to a start-up company and is also targeting inclusion by US manufacturers in 2026.

“Mushrooms” for absorbing sugar

In a similar effort, BioLumen has developed a proprietary plant fiber-based drink mix designed to expand in the stomach and soak up sugar in food, making it unavailable for early absorption, they report The Guardian.

Once locked in the “sponge”, a significant amount of the sugar will simply pass through the body. One gram of the mixture, called Monch Monch, can absorb six grams of sugar, according to lab tests.

Monch Monch entered the US market as a probiotic beverage additive in November 2023, but BioLumen’s longer-term plan is to also sell it as an ingredient to food manufacturers.

The San Francisco-based startup has already received generally recognized as safe (GRAS) designation for the product and is currently working on ways to lower its costs.

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