When we last spoke to Swiftlet, the cross-country team had just done a pilot soft launch of its sugar replacement blend in the Philippines, highlighting this to be the first sugar alternative to carry digestive health benefits due to the addition of prebiotics, in addition to also being zero-calorie, zero sugar and zero-GI.
Less than two years on, Swiftlet is moving on to the second phase of its growth strategy with market expansion within South East Asia into Singapore and Vietnam, and is targeting its first European entry later this year.
“The first European markets of interest for us are Portugal and Spain, which will be phase three for us which will commence in the second quarter of 2022,” Swiftlet Co-Founder and Head of R&D Minh Le told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“One of the reasons for this is because we know that many countries like the US are imposing taxation on the use of sugars in many of their products, and it is expected that soon enough various European countries will also be doing something similar.
“Bigger brands in F&B here are thus trying to step away from the use of traditional sugar and bring out healthier versions of the products that they already have in their pipeline by simply taking the sugar out of it, and that’s why we’ve drawn a lot of interest from countries like Portugal and Spain, which are two of the top sugar-consuming nations in the EU.”
Swiftlet’s market entry strategy is two-pronged, targeting both B2C and B2B markets, and highlighting not only its product’s health benefits as a point of attraction but also its one-to-one replacement ratio as a plus point.
“A lot of our general consumers are mostly those with diabetes or those looking to find alternatives for this group, such that they will be able to enjoy the same taste of their existing foods without the sugar and the guilt,” Swiftlet Head of Sales Dominic Plana added.
“When it comes to B2B, we supply to various foodservice partners including restaurants, bakeries and cafes, as well as the baking and beverage industries. Food and beverage manufacturers are one of our biggest clients right now, and they really generate us a lot of sales as of the moment.
“We are seeing this continue to rise from medium to large scales of businesses who want to expand to their own sugar free product line, and the fact that our product can be substituted in a one to one ratio which is really convenient for them is a big draw.
“So we do have experience with both B2C and B2B areas and this also means having access to feedback from both sides, enabling us to determine whether we are meeting the standards and requirements of consumers, as well as the functionalities that they want.”
To this end, Swiftlet has also been collecting health checkup feedback from existing consumers to confirm GI and blood sugar levels, but is planning to conduct a larger-scale clinical trial on its product moving forward.
“Our product comprises ingredients that already have existing food safety certifications, but we’re looking for a good window where we can set up with good doctors and volunteers to conduct our own further clinical tests on the product itself,” Le added.
“That would be the final piece for our complete safety dosage research on the product.”
Lower-cost and RTE products on the way
Moving forward, the firm is also looking to expand its product portfolio by looking in two separate directions – the development of lower-cost products, and of RTE products.
“We are coming up with cheaper variants of our product, lower-cost options which will be more suitable particularly for beverage industry clients who need to use the product at a much larger scale and at a more affordable price,” said Le.
“The new variant will be able to deliver the exact same taste whilst keeping an almost-similar functional profile including low GI, low calories and diabetic-friendly, but at a much lower cost.
“In addition, we are also planning to bring a range of ready to use and RTE sugar-free products to the market, to elevate our portfolio beyond being an ingredient just to turn anything sugar-free. This will include things like snacks and beverages so as to benefit consumers even further in terms of not needing to spend the time cooking or baking.”