Award-winning startup uses enzymes to cut sugar in fruit juice

31 Jan 2019

Fruit juice has come under fire for its high sugar content in recent years, but an Israeli startup called Better Juice has developed an enzyme technology that cuts sugars by up to 80% without adding or subtracting anything from the juice.

Award-winning startup uses enzymes to cut sugar in fruit juice
The process takes place in a metal column installed on a juice manufacturer’s production line

The company won the Most Innovative Technology award at the 2018 Startup Innovation Challenge at Health ingredients Europe in Frankfurt for its sugar reduction process, which it developed in conjunction with The Hebrew University in Rehovot, Israel, and The Kitchen Hub incubator. “I truly believe our solution is revolutionising the juice industry,” said Better Juice CEO Eran Blachinsky. “It’s a game changer for the juice and beverage industry.”

Consumers concerned about sugar

Fruit juices may contain the nutrients of fresh produce, but they lack fibre and are a concentrated source of calories and sugars. According to Mintel, juice manufacturers have seen a steady decline in sales over the past decade as they face increased competition from other beverages, like teas and waters, and as consumers have responded to concerns about high sugar content.

A recent poll from market research organisation Sensus found that a quarter of adults surveyed in France, Germany, the UK, Italy and Sweden actively sought out low sugar products, and 60% said they monitored their sugar intake.

“We are bringing a solution that answers an unsolved problem in the market,” Blachinsky said.

A novel and natural solution

The company uses enzymatic activity of non-GMO microorganisms to convert sugars into other compounds. While the technology can reduce the sugar content of any fruit juice, those that contain sucrose – like orange juice, for example – also get a fibre boost, as enzymes convert the sucrose to fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a prebiotic dietary fibre used to enrich many food products.

“It’s cost effective and treats all types of sugars,” Blachinsky said. “We are focusing on the juice producer market – and juice is not just drinking juice that you are familiar with in the supermarket.”

The degree of sugar reduction depends on the target product, with deeper reductions possible for those that use fruit juice as an ingredient, such as ice cream, confectionery, juice drinks and cakes. The process takes place in a metal column that would be installed on a juice manufacturer’s production line, and allows for sugar reduction of 30% to 80%.

For pure fruit juice, the company recommends a 30% reduction to avoid any bitter or sour flavours, but in a product like ice cream flavoured with fruit juice, manufacturers could aim to cut sugars in the juice by 80%.

Overcoming marketing challenges

From a regulatory perspective, although nothing is added to or removed from the juice, European manufacturers will have to call the treated product a ‘juice drink’ rather than ‘juice’, and Blachinsky says this causes some companies to hesitate.

“The juice industry is very conservative,” he said. “They are really afraid of not being able to call it juice, but this is only a marketing issue. Customers don’t know the regulation.”

In the United States, the product can be called ‘juice’, but must be qualified as ‘enzymatically treated’ or ‘sugar reduced’ juice.

Blachinsky says the company’s process has already attracted a great deal of interest, including from major multinational firms, and fruit juice produced with its technology should be available in supermarkets by 2020.

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