One of the most common myths is that fruit juice is healthy. While there is no doubt that fruit are healthy and recommended foods, the story changes when they are turned into juice: their dietary fiber is extracted and their natural sugar remains. Since drinking does not instill the same sense of rapid satiation as eating does, we drink a quantity of fruit that we would never eat in one sitting, thereby filling ourselves with a high quantity of sugar.
Better Juice was founded in 2018 in order to solve this problem. The company offers a unique solution that makes it possible to reduce the sugar in the beverage with a relatively minimum effect on its sweetness. This innovation was developed by Dr. Eran Blachinsky, who is the company’s co-CEO together with Gali Yarom. Prior to founding Better Juice, Dr. Blachinsky, who holds a PhD in Biology, worked as VP of a food company that produced jams. When he realized that his diabetic father could not eat the company’s products even though the jams do not contain added sugar – since the fruit in the jam is naturally rich in sugar – he decided that it was important to find a solution.
Based on his experience with enzyme immobilization processes in other products, Dr. Blachinsky surmised that it is possible to conduct a similar process with sugar as well. He began exploring and studying the issue, and together with Dr. Roni Shapira of Hebrew University, invented the method and founded Better Juice. Gali Yarom, a biotechnology engineer who previously held management positions in large dairies, decided at the time to switch to FoodTech. Thus, a winning team was born, consisting of a scientific mind and an operations and engineering expert, who together brought about a revolutionary technology.
The juice remains sweet
Better Juice’s invention is a new technology for industrial use. The company’s CEOs envision their business model as resembling that of a printer and ink cartridges. They produce the ink inside the cartridges. “We are a bio-tech company that manufactures immobilized enzymes,” says Dr. Blachinsky. “We grow the micro-organisms from which the enzymes are produced, and we immobilize them. We will sell them to commercial companies that will use them to separate the sugar from the juice. They will actually add our solution to their production line. Every two months, the immobilized enzymes must be replaced, just like we replace ink cartridges in a printer or filters in water purifiers.”
How does the process work?
Dr. Blachinsky: “The enzymatic process, occurs at the immobilized micro-organisms in a smart and controlled container – a bio-reactor. The juice flows continuously and emerges from the other side without sugar. The enzymes change the sugar’s molecular composition to natural molecules that are not processed as calories by the human body, especially not as sugar. Unlike other solutions available on the market, in our system the transformed molecules remain sweet – although they are less sweet than in their original form. The sweetness decline is not in the ratio of -1 to -1 with sugar reduction. It is closer to a 10% decrease in sweetness for every 30% reduction in sugar. The result is juice that is less sweet but still sweet enough – and tastes good. And of course, all the healthy elements remain in the juice.”
Yarom: “We know how to process all types of sugars: glucose, sucrose and fructose. Therefore, we can handle all types of fruit. Each type of fruit is its own world of sugars: some have a lot of glucose and fructose, and not much sucrose, while others are the opposite. Our technology knows how to take care of all types. Another advantage is that the consistency is not affected, since we do not extract the sugars from the juice but, rather, change their structure and retain the natural and healthy molecules. This is an advantage for a wide range of products where sugar extraction could harm the consistency, when the role of the sugar is not only for sweetness but also structural, such as with fruit-based snacks, juice concentrates, cloudy juices and fruit purées. These products will look the same. According to regulations, if a product has less than half a percent of sugar, it can be labeled as sugar-free. The Better Juice technology enables fruit-based products to fit in this category. As you can see, sugar extraction technology is also suitable for foods that contain fruit, such as jams and ice-cream, and even honey and maple syrup. For milk, it’s the same technology but with different enzymes. However, at this stage we are focusing only on fruit products. We will deal with other types of food at a later time. One day, we will even develop a version for neutralizing household sugar: the customer will use a type of tea bag that will cancel the sugar in their drink. Restaurants will also be able to obtain a module adapted to their needs.”
So what is your next step?
Yarom: “We are on the cusp of the commercial roll-out phase. Our two pilot projects are successful in the United States and the Philippines, working at a rate of 20-30 liters per hour. We received a permit to sell in the U.S. and in the beginning of January we will install our first commercial unit there. It is ready in Germany and we will soon go there to test it. Additional companies are interested in purchasing our technology and in mid-2022 our products will be available on the American market. We already have several commercial and development agreements with large multi-national companies.”
Dr. Blachinsky: “Companies approach us all the time. We feel that there is a definite need for our product in the fruit-based food industry, which is huge, with an annual turnover of around $500 billon. Now that countries and regulators are starting to speak of taxing sugar-rich foods, awareness is growing from the side of both the suppliers and the customers. Everyone already understands that diabetes and obesity are the epidemics of the 21st century, and therefore our solution is appealing. We have no doubt that when we go commercial, it will be a breakthrough success.”