Food & Drink

Ingredion partners, invests in startup reducing sugar in juice

Dive Brief:

  • Ingredion is partnering with and investing in Better Juice to help the startup expand the rollout of its sugar-reducing technology in the U.S. The company has developed a process that removes simple sugars in juice-based beverages, concentrates and other natural sugar-containing liquids. 
  • Ingredion Ventures, the company’s investment arm, will lead the Series A funding round for Better Juice. Financial details were not disclosed.
  • Illinois-based Ingredion, which has identified sugar reduction technology and sugar alternatives as a key platform for growth, has aggressively bought, invested and partnered with companies in the space. 

Dive Insight:

As consumers demand more food and beverages with less sugar, manufacturers have unsurprisingly turned their attention to introducing new products or reformulating existing ones.

The shift has been a boon to companies such as Ingredion, which has built a portfolio of sweetener options and sugar substitutes while simultaneously amassing insight into how those ingredients will impact a product’s taste, texture and formulation. 

Ingredion has invested $300 million in sugar reduction and specialty sweeteners during the last seven years, according to the company. 

Now, its agreement with Better Juice gives it another solution that it could eventually offer to CPG customers looking to reduce sugar in their liquids. 

Better Juice has developed an enzymatic technology that converts sugars into non-digestible compounds, such as dietary fibers and non-digestible sugars, while maintaining the vitamins, minerals and organic acids in the final product. The technology reduces the sugar content between 30% and 80%.

According to the USDA data, 12 fluid ounces of 100% orange juice has 31.2 grams of sugar. In comparison, a regular-sized can of cola, also 12 fluid ounces, has 36.8 grams of sugar. Studies have shown that drinking juice can have as many health consequences as drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.

Still, reducing sugar or finding an alternative is not always straightforward for a company, so the ability of Ingredion to add another solution to its sugar-reducing toolbox helps enhance its versatility and makes it a more attractive partner. Ingredion estimates the sugar reduction market, which is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 6%, at $5 billion. 

“The Better Juice technology adds a completely new dimension to our portfolio of sugar reduction solutions for food and beverage brands on a mission to meet increased consumer demand for less sugar,” Nate Yates, sugar reduction business leader at Ingredion, said in a statement. “This technology also provides manufacturers with more options to successfully reduce sugar without compromising on great taste or nutrition.”

In addition to Better Juice, Ingredion has agreed to commercialize Amyris’ sugar reduction technology, including its fermented Rebaudioside M, while entering into an R&D agreement to create and advance the development of sustainably sourced, zero-calorie, nature-based sweeteners. 

Ingredion also purchased a controlling stake in stevia pioneer PureCircle, turning it into a global leader for the sweetener alternative overnight. And it bolstered its portfolio of ingredients, such as allulose, that replace sugar’s other functionalities — like bulking, browning, and caramelization — beyond just the sweetness. This helps food and beverage brands recreate the full sugar taste experience.

Better Juice, which started in 2018, said it had previously demonstrated its technology to juice manufacturers. With some companies in the U.S. and Asia set to move from proof of concept to commercialization, Better Juice wanted to be in a position to capitalize on this opportunity. Better Juice now can process 250 million liters of sugar-reduced juice per year, the company said.

For Israel-based Better Juice, having Ingredion on board not only gives it the cash it can use to invest and grow its business but also provides it with equally valuable insight, experience and connections within the industry. Eran Blachinsky, co-founder and co-CEO of Better Juice, said Ingredion’s capital will allow his company to enter other liquids with natural sources of sugar, such as milk, beer and wine. 

It also will position Better Juice to compete with other companies that are working to reduce sugar in juice and other beverages. Global food and commodities giant Louis Dreyfus Company, for example, has deployed similar enzymatic technology in Brazil. In 2022, the company created a not-from-concentrate orange juice with 30% less natural sugar and more than three times the dietary fiber content. 

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