Sugar reduction technology startup Better Juice raised $8 million in a funding round led by iAngels, according to a press release emailed to Food Dive.
Better Juice has developed an enzymatic technology that converts fructose, glucose and sucrose into prebiotic dietary fibers and other non-digestible molecules. The process helps reduce up to 80% of all sugar. The non-GMO technology is currently aimed at orange juice. The company opened a pilot plant in January 2021 and will use the funding to construct its first full-scale manufacturing plant in Israel.
- Nearly half of consumers are aiming to reduce their sugar consumption, but taste remains an important priority for many of them. Many consumers have chosen to limit their overall intake instead of opting for products that contain artificial sweeteners, forcing food manufacturers to explore new options like natural and novel ingredients.
Sugar performs a variety of important functions in food formulations beyond adding sweetness including texture, color and shelf life. Removing sugar from a recipe or trying to swap it for an alternative has posed serious challenges for food manufacturers. While some businesses are turning to natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit to cut calories, natural options often leave a pesky aftertaste and tend to increase manufacturing costs.
In response to the emerging opportunity, a new class of startups like Better Juice has emerged around sugar reduction technology. Israeli startup DouxMatok's first product reduced up to 40% of the sugar content in foods and baked goods while still delivering the same amount of the sweet flavor.
Legacy players also are working on sugar solutions, including Nestlé, which created a "hollow sugar" that causes a person to perceive the same level of sweetness but consume less of the popular ingredient. Kerry Taste and Nutrition has developed TasteSense, a natural flavoring solution designed to bring back sweetness that's lost when sugar is reduced.
Ocean Spray is partnering with Amai Proteins on a cranberry juice that has at least 40% less sugar using the startup’s designer sweet protein, while Kraft Heinz’s investment arm led a $6.9 million investment for Joywell, which uses fermentation technologies to create plant-based sweet proteins.
Better Juice is hoping to stand out from the competition by targeting existing sugars in orange juice. The fruit juice category has faced intense competition as consumers increasingly view it as a high-sugar option alongside soda. A variety of beverage makers such as PepsiCo with Tropicana and Coca-Cola through its Minute Maid brand have launched low-sugar varieties of juice to satisfy consumers’ preferences.
Modifying the existing sugars in orange juice will not only enable manufacturers to decrease sugar content, but help them better align their products with consumers’ growing demand for clean label ingredients. It also may clarify existing label confusion around sugar. Label confusion has posed challenges for beverage manufacturers offering reformulated versions and lead to an emerging class of drinks called juice waters like PepsiCo’s Frutly and Nestlé Pure Life Fruity Water.
Most parents of young children cannot identify key ingredients in children's drinks after reviewing the packaging, Nutrition Facts and the ingredients list, according to research released earlier this year. This includes the presence of added sugars, no- and low-calorie sweeteners and the percentage of juice.
Better Juice may be at a disadvantage by focusing exclusively on orange juice compared to other companies offering ingredients or technologies that can be applied to a variety of foods and beverages. The upstart may need to expand its offering to other beverages in order to capture more interest from juice makers.