Fight sugar with sugar, not sweeteners: Nucane Life claims tech offers clean label, added functionality for reformulation in Malaysia

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Singapore-based foodtech firm Nutrition Innovation is bringing its sugar reduction technology Nucane Life to Malaysia in partnership with local sugar giant CSR. ©Getty Images
Singapore-based foodtech firm Nutrition Innovation is bringing its sugar reduction technology Nucane Life to Malaysia in partnership with local sugar giant CSR. ©Getty Images

Related tags Sugar sugar reduction Malaysia

Singapore-based foodtech firm Nutrition Innovation is bringing its sugar reduction technology Nucane Life to Malaysia in partnership with local sugar giant CSR, offering local food manufacturers a clean label option for reformulation with added functional properties

According to Nutrition Innovation CEO Matthew Godfrey, this technology is particularly suited for the reformulation of food products as it is based on common cane sugar, so it will still fulfil the functions that sugar plays in sweet foods such as chocolates, biscuits, pastries and the like.

“Using sweeteners like stevia or maltitol is more possible for beverages as they play the prmary function of taste, but this is far more difficult to replace in food products as there are other roles sugar plays that would need to be replaced,”​ Godfrey told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“In chocolate for example, sugar does not only provide that sweet taste but also acts to provide bulk, as a filler, binder and preservative so what happens is that if you use stevia you get the sweet taste but no binding, filling, preservation etc so other agents additives need to be brought in to replace these, which means that E numbers are likely to come into play.

“There are many sugar reduction innovations out there which are not clean label and are novel products which still require FDA approval or, again, E numbers to be added - Nucane Life technology is based on regular sugar and protein so avoids the need for this and ensures a product can remain clean label even after undergoing reformulation, which is an important trend in the eyes of many consumers these days.

“This is basically still sugar, from the same crops and obtained through the same supply chain as sugar but just processed differently – so what we’re doing here is making sugar the solution to fight the sugar problem.”

The Nucane Life product presents as a sugar powder that looks more or less like regular sugar but is actually far less dense as the technology has processed each sugar grain into a honeycomb structure which is emptier on the inside. The structural frame of the grain remains similar to regular sugar though, which means that the powder retains the same bulk and size, but is half the weight, which is what leads to the sugar reduction.

“Just half the amount of Nucane Life powder needs to be used as opposed to regular sugar in the majority of applications, so let’s say a normal chocolate bar needs to have 30g of sugar added, now just 15g of the powder is needed to maintain the same taste, bulk, etc.,”​ said Godfrey.

“In addition and importantly, the technology also allows us to customise the products to have added functionalities, which means we can have recipes for a high-protein product by tweaking the percentages of protein and sugar, a vegan product by swapping protein molecules to be pea proteins for example, a dairy product by adding whey proteins, a high-fibre product by adding more fibre to the recipe, a lower-GI product by using our Better Brown sugar molecules instead of regular sugar and so on.”

The current two core recipes of Nucane Life are sugar-protein and sugar-protein-fibre, but Godfrey added that it is possible to be fine-tune these even further for even more applications.

To Malaysia and beyond

Nucane Life will be entering Malaysia as its first commercial market under the care of Nutrition Innovation long-time partner and local sugar firm CSR, which has been licensed the technology for the Malaysian market.

“We are excited in Nucane Life’s unique benefit in specifically designing  a sugar-based solution to achieve sugar reduction while incorporating the nutrition of proteins and fibres - a development  which is becoming increasingly important to our customers,”​ said CSR Chief Operating Officer Victor Ng.

"We will begin development in Malaysia by conducting application trials with selected major customers to gain a better understanding of the potential demand and volumes. Thereafter we can take steps towards an evaluation of scaled local production for both domestic and export needs.”

Godfrey confirmed that CSR is Nutrition Innovation’s first partner in the world to develop Nucane Life commercially, and added that Malaysia is important to growth plans for the ASEAN region due to its manufacturing pull.

“Malaysia is really a key hub for food companies doing manufacturing and distribution in Malaysia, many of these firms have their factories located here,”​ he said.

“A lot of products meant for export are also produced here, so if talking about working with major companies on a significant scale for ASEAN food production, this is definitely where to go.

“Other than Malaysia, we’re also looking at developing Nucane Life sites in Europe such as in Denmark and France, and North America is also important to us. There’s a lot of demand from Europe due to the sugar reduction aspect so that’s likely our next step, then North America, then big markets like China and India with large manufacturing and domestic audiences. Eventually though, the plan is to have a global ecosystem of production sites for sure.”

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