Sugar reduction technology developer DouxMatok has closed a $22 million Series B today led by Singapore-based BlueRed Partners alongside strategic investors Südzucker AG, the largest European sugar company, Royal DSM, a global leader in science-based nutrition, health and sustainable living, and Singha Ventures, a corporate venture fund of Singha Corporation, one of Thailand’s largest food & beverage conglomerates.
Additional participants in the round included existing shareholders Pitango Venture Capital, Jerusalem Venture Partners, as well as new financial investors including BtoV Partners, OurCrowd, and La Maison.
The Israeli startup uses a targeted delivery technology to reduce the amount of sugar used in food items by up to 40% without affecting taste. The technology is based on tricking people to detect sweetness.
DouxMatok binds sucrose molecules to the mineral silica, a commonly-used anti-caking agent that is approved by the FDA and the EU and also a naturally-occurring mineral in many foods like bananas, carrots, bread, and rice. This binding process causes the sucrose molecules to hit people’s taste receptors at higher concentrations, increasing the brain’s perception of a sweet flavor.
DouxMatok’s technology platform is backed by 20 patents and was developed over a six-year period in consultation with a multidisciplinary team of scientists specializing in material sciences, organic and green chemistry, sensory sciences, drug delivery, and food science. The company has also performed a number of independent consumer and expert sensory panel tests to validate its sugars. In the tests, the products were not only perceived to be as sweet as the full sugar reference but were often favored in blind tastings both in terms of preference and purchase intention.
The new funding will be used to help DouxMatok commercialize its product.
“We are now scaling up in Europe and the first production line is in the final days of commissioning,” CEO and co-founder Eran Baniel told AFN. “And we are busy making decisions about who we go with in North America and some other territories. The opportunity for sugar reduction in North America is absolutely huge. We are also working on branding our sugar and working on the next generation of our sugar, which will be organic. We are also working on salt again, which we couldn’t do before this round.”
Last year, it announced a partnership with Europe’s largest sugar producer, Südzucker, which pursued the partnership because of requests from its customers that had successfully trialed DouxMatok’s sugar.
It has also engaged in multiple collaborations with leading food companies to reformulate popular products and to offer consumers a way to enjoy their favorite food and snack products with a greatly improved nutritional profile.
Certainly, making sugar less sugary has its challenges, especially when it comes to baking formulations and product consistency. Consumers want less caloric impact when indulging, but not at the risk of compromising quality.
“Most milk chocolate is 50% sugar. We can take half of that out, so in 100 grams we have reduced 25 grams of sugar,” Baniel explains. “But you need to fill that in. You can’t add more cocoa or cocoa butter because it’s too expensive, so you have the challenge of replacing the sugar with the right combination of fibers and proteins that won’t disrupt the taste or the mouthfeel and other functionalities. Giving companies a turnkey solution for sugar reduction is the biggest challenge.”
Sugar Reduction Tech is Booming
With excessive sugar consumption posing serious health threats including diabetes throughout the world, many startups have been working to develop alternatives and solutions that won’t cause food manufacturers to jeopardize taste or product composition.
“Where we can beat everyone else is probably on taste. We are actually sugar-based, so there is no aftertaste and our sugar-reduced products that we’ve done so far, for example, the consumers not only rated us as sweet but in blind tests we were rated twice as good as the full sugar versions,” Baniel explains.”
Singapore startup Nutrition Innovation is hoping to tap what they estimate to be a $100 billion sugar market with a low-glycemic natural cane sugar product. The startup recently closed a $5 million seed round with Singaporean food and ag investor VisVires New Protein and global trading house Enerfo Group. The company will use the funding to continue testing its product with food and beverage companies across Australia, Brazil, Africa, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Stem (previously Cambridge Glycosciences and an AgFunder portfolio company) has created a biological process that extracts natural compounds from plants with chemical structures that are closest to natural sugar. It’s focusing on the bakery industry first.
California’s Miraculex is working with the brazzein protein, which is 2,000 times as sweet as sugar and comes from the African oubli plant, while BetterJuice is using non-GMO microorganism activity and continuous bioconversion to process large volumes of juice with little effect on overall costs, according to the company.