An Israeli company appears to be at the forefront of a “revolution” in the sugar industry, with a sweetener product its founder claims is sweeter and healthier than its much-maligned processed sibling found in many a food product, according to a Channel 2 report on Wednesday.
“Unavoo” was founded and developed at home by Israeli entrepreneur Yuval Maimon, who was diagnosed with diabetes at age 38.
Maimon said he must have done some “700-800 nightly experiments” at his makeshift lab before finding the winning formula. The sweetener is granulated, resembling sugar, and dissolves just like it in lab testing shown on Channel 2. Most importantly, however, it doesn’t have the disliked aftertaste that a majority of sweeteners available in the market have, according to the report.
Israel’s sugar monopoly, Sugat, and its London-based parent company, ED & F Man, have invested in the product, noting a years-long trend away from sugar.
“Over the past few years we’ve seen a significant decrease in the amount [of sugar] for personal consumption,” said Gilles Gamon, CEO of Sugat, which sells sugar products under its own brand name and those of others. The company also provides sugar for use in other Israeli products including various candy, chocolate goods.
Gamon estimates the decrease at some 20-25 percent over the past four years.
ED & F Man, the second-largest sugar company in the world with a 12% share of the global sugar market, which is worth some $1.7 billion annually, has also noted the drop.
“Food preferences are changing, and in particular in places like Israel for example with a more vast economy… their growth or consumption of sugar is actually reducing. People are eating less sugar, they are becoming more conscious of what they eat,” Jonathan Hugh, industry manager at ED & F Man, told Channel 2.
With health problems attributed to diet and sugar consumption on the rise, “there is a drive toward finding alternative sweeteners,” he said.
Gamon said Sugat decided to “invest in a company where the sweetener was already completed.”
“We’re talking about something so simple that only a genius could have thought of it. Others tried to develop much more complicated products,” he said.
Hugh said the British parent company “tasted their product, it tasted great, it was natural and healthy as well,” and that it intends to sell the products to the food industry to push it as a “food ingredient” while also working to “build our own brand line.”
Gamon said that he hopes to have a whole line of Unavoo-sweetened products available to the Israeli market by the end of the year — spreads, cookies, cake mix and so on
Sugat said the production costs are also a factor: 20 tons of Unavoo are equivalent to 300 tons of sugar, reducing the costs of packaging and transport.
Gamon and Maimon believe Unavoo will eat into approximately 10% of the sweetener industry in the coming years and another 10% of the sugar industry itself.
“If as they described it, the sweetener tastes better, and is sweeter and more accessible, it is certainly a revolution,” Professor Itamar Raz, president of a well-being organization called MeHayom (Starting Today), told Channel 2.