More than half of the global population – 51%, or over 4 billion people – will be obese by 2035, according to a 2023 report from the World Obesity Atlas.
One of the major causes of obesity is sugar. While candy and carbonated drinks might be on many people’s radars as a primary source of sugar, natural beverages such as orange juice are also packed with it.
With these health concerns in mind, scientists at Israeli startup BlueTree Technologies created proprietary technology that removes up to 50 percent of the sugar from juice and other natural beverages. BlueTree’s innovative method selectively removes a specific sugar molecule, preserving the beverages’ natural taste and health benefits.
The company is now raising a funding round through OurCrowd, the Jerusalem-based equity investment platform.
“Our technology targets the disaccharides in the juice without harming the other ingredients,” says Yossi Sefi, BlueTree’s Chief Technical Officer. “It is capable of locating the exact kind of sugar in orange juice, for example, and removing it without harming the pulp, the vitamin C, the amino acids, or any other important ingredients.”
In tests, half of those surveyed reported they preferred the flavor of orange juice with less sugar, while noticing no difference in the aroma and texture from the original.
The company, which was nurtured at the Fresh Start FoodTech incubator in northern Israel established by OurCrowd with Tnuva, Tempo and Finistere Ventures, has successfully adapted its technology for commercial applications.
“We developed a turnkey platform that can be easily integrated into any manufacturing line,” says Michael Gordon, BlueTree’s CEO, who was formerly a senior director at Coca-Cola before joining the company. Gordon oversaw BlueTree’s first major deployment at a plant belonging to Priniv, one of the top three natural juice manufacturers in Israel.
“It took us no more than two months to fully integrate our system and we did it without interfering with the plant’s overall operations,” Gordon says.
BlueTree built all the equipment and the machinery for the Priniv installation in-house. The facility can now produce some 10,000 liters of orange juice daily, with up to 50% less sugar. BlueTree is poised for full-scale commercial production, with patents secured in the EU and Brazil, while awaiting Israeli Ministry of Health approval and the US Food and Drug Administration.
International beverage manufacturers and distributors, looking to produce healthier products and avoid warning labels or progressive taxes on sugary drinks, are also showing a great deal of interest in BlueTree’s platform. The company signed an agreement with a leading international manufacturer which it hopes will result in revenues of at least $6 million a year. It is also in advanced negotiations with other global producers in Italy, Spain, and major juice manufacturers in Brazil and Thailand.
The dairy industry is another target for BlueTree’s technology. Working together with one of Israel’s largest food manufacturers, the company produced a prototype that reduced the sugar in skimmed milk by some 75 percent. Commercialization plans are underway. The company also began an R&D project for beer with an international beverage manufacturer. The agreement forecasts the production of more than 200 million liters of reduced-sugar beer a year.
“We can make the world better by reducing the sugar from all of nature’s liquids for all consumers,” Gordon says. “Our versatile tech could help curb the obesity crisis by cutting two teaspoons of sugar from children’s daily diet.”
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