In the search for healthier sweetening options, allulose emerges as a promising contender in the sugar substitute market. This low-calorie sweetener, which mirrors about 70% of sugar's sweetness, is naturally present in small quantities in fruits like figs and raisins.
Despite its US approval over ten years ago, the challenge of high production costs has limited its widespread use. However, Ambrosia Bio, an innovative Israeli startup led by Dr. Ziv Zwighaft, is breaking new ground with a cost-effective method of producing allulose using a unique enzyme.
The increasing rates of obesity and diabetes globally have intensified the demand for healthier sugar alternatives. Market analyst Gaurav Sahni from GreyB points to the booming sugar substitute industry, projecting its value to soar beyond $28 billion within the next decade.
Current alternatives, including aspartame, stevia, and erythritol, offer varying degrees of sweetness but often lack the full taste profile and functionality of traditional sugar.
Concerns around the safety of some substitutes, particularly erythritol and aspartame, have been raised, with the World Health Organization urging caution due to potential health risks. Nonetheless, the industry continues to innovate.
American company Bonumose is advancing with tagatose production, another rare sugar variant, while The Supplant Company in the UK is deriving sweeteners from agricultural waste. Incredo, another Israeli startup, is focusing on enhancing the sweetness of sugar through physical modifications, and Oobli from the USA is experimenting with sweet proteins produced via genetically modified yeast.
Despite these technological leaps, the industry faces hurdles in gaining customer trust, securing regulatory approvals, and proving the feasibility of mass production.
Health experts emphasise the need for rigorous evaluation of each new sweetener's safety and benefits. While the ideal goal remains to reduce sugar consumption, these novel sweeteners are paving the way for healthier choices in a world increasingly conscious of dietary impacts on health.