Enzyme technology slashes sugar in fruit juice

2 Nov 2018

Israeli researchers have developed a new technology to cut sugar by up to 80% in fruit juice, by using enzymes that boost the fibre content at the same time.

Enzyme technology slashes sugar in fruit juice

Although fruit juices contain all the nutrients of fresh produce, their lack of fibre and high sugar content means dietitians often recommend limiting juice consumption. In conjunction with researchers at Hebrew University in Rehovot, Israel, a start-up called Better Juice Ltd.. has developed an enzymatic technology that converts sugars like fructose, glucose and sucrose into prebiotic and other non-digestible fibres and sugars, while retaining the drink’s flavour and nutritional profile.

The company claims that in trials with beverage companies it has cut sugar in orange juice by 30-80%. Although the resulting juice is slightly less sweet than ordinary fruit juice, it says the technology enhances fruity flavour, meaning that the drink’s taste is actually improved.

European juice sales have been declining in recent years, according to Mintel, as consumers have started to look more closely at sugar content. Along with reduced sugar, the addition of fibre could help turn the tide, as consumers seek added health benefits from their foods and drinks.

Companies like Beneo and Ingredion have been looking at new fibre ingredients from rice, corn and potatoes to add functionality to beverages, answering consumer demand for drinks with greater health appeal. The popularity of fibre has expanded in recent years too, to include younger consumers who are interested in fibre’s health benefits beyond ‘staying regular’. A growing body of research suggests fibre may help lower cholesterol, improve blood glucose levels, and possibly reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

However, it is the promise of reduced sugar in juice that looks most relevant in a market where consumer concern over sugar has reached an all-time high. In the UK, for example, the Food Standards Agency found in May 2018 that 55% of consumers were concerned about the amount of sugar in their food, up from 39% when it conducted its first Public Attitudes Tracker survey in 2010. And a 2016 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.

Enzymatic solutions have been used successfully to reduce sugar in other sectors. In dairy, for example, enzyme companies like Novozymes and DSM are promoting lactase for its ability to break lactose into glucose and galactose. Because glucose is sweeter than lactose, the approach can allow for a sugar reduction of 20-50%.

Enzymes are also being used to reduce the bitter flavours associated with some sweeteners. US-based MycoTechnology, for example, has developed an enzymatic solution from mushrooms that cuts the bitter metallic taste associated with many stevia-derived sweeteners.

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