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Starting in mid-July 2022, GEA and Israeli start-up Better Juice will conduct product tests on behalf of beverage manufacturers looking to lower the sugar content in drinks. To provide the service, the new GEA Better Juice Sugar Converter Skid, which the industrial systems supplier developed based on the Better Juice process, has been installed at the GEA Test Center in Ahaus, Germany. With this innovative solution for the juice industry, GEA is raising the profile of the Ahaus facility as a key hub for piloting aseptic processing and filling of sensitive foods and beverages.

Test Center provides solutions for unique product requirements

“We can now collaborate with our customers at the Test Center to strike the ideal balance between a sweet note and reduced sugar content,” says Gali Yarom, co-founder and joint CEO of Better Juice. To that end, the microbiologists from Better Juice will join forces with GEA’s specialist engineers to support and guide companies in running trials. The GEA Test Center at Ahaus will provide laboratory services dedicated to testing all important analytical parameters.

“It’s often necessary to initially demystify innovative solutions like the Better Juice process. That’s why it’s all the more important to make the case for the technology with manufacturers in person,” says Sascha Wesely who leads the Non-Alcoholic Beverages business at GEA. “The Ahaus trials help us optimize process efficiency right from the outset. By running scalable tests under real-life conditions, we significantly cut the time to market.”

A scalable, enzymatic solution to removing up to 80 percent of sugar from fresh juices

Thanks to a patented enzymatic process, this is the world’s first solution that naturally reduces the sugar content of fruit drinks by up to 80 percent, without affecting its nutritional value or authentic taste. The juice flows continuously through a bioreactor containing GMO-free, immobilized microorganisms which convert simple sugars into prebiotic, non-digestible molecules that benefit the intestinal flora. As a result, the GEA Better Juice Sugar Converter Skid succeeds in removing up to 80 percent of the sugar in natural fruit juices, concentrates as well as fruit-based mixtures, such as purees. At the end of 2021, the partners won their first commercial order from a company in the U.S. where, once integrated into production, the system will create juices with much less sugar.

Better Juice, Ltd., the first foodTech startup to develop innovative technology to reduce all types of sugars in orange juice, and Citrosuco S.A, Brazil, one of the largest orange juice producers worldwide, are teaming up! The new collaboration aims to set up a pilot plant to reduce sugars in orange juice. Citrosuco is providing some of the funding plus technical and operational expertise.

Fruit juices contain vitamins, minerals, and many other beneficial nutrients, but this natural drink comes with three types of sugars. Better Juice’s game-changing enzymatic technology naturally transforms all types of fruit sugars into prebiotic and other non-digestible fibers and sugars.

“Our device use non-GMO microorganisms to convert the sugars, and provides orange juice manufactures a ready opportunity to meet the trends and claims for reduced sugars, all while keeping the juicy flavor of the beverage,” says Eran Blachinsky, PhD, Founder and CEO of Better Juice. “The global orange juices market is valued at dozens of billion US$ with outstanding potential to create better-for-you orange juice beverages.”

“We have been seeking an orange juice sugar reduction technology for some time,” says Alex Marie Schuermans, Product Development and Applications General Manager of Citrosuco. “Better Juice’s solution holds a lot of promise and we are confident that by combining their technology with our know-how, we can accelerate production of the first sugar-reduced orange juice.”

“This collaboration with Citrosuco is a vote of confidence in Better Juice’s leading technology and its capabilities for reducing sugar in orange juice,” notes Blachinsky. “We’re excited to work with this strategic partner and help create juices with low sugar — the latest frontier in sugar reduction.”

“Our proprietary technology can be tuned to reduce between 30 % to 80 % of all the sugars in orange juice,” explains Blachinsky. “Making it easy conform to the minimum 25% reduction required by the FDA, as well as the 30 % reduction required by the EFSA for allowable claims of ‘reduced sugar’ in food and beverage products.”

The startup won the “Most Innovative Technology” award at the 2018 Startup Innovation Challenge at Health ingredients Europe in Frankfurt for its sugar reduction technology, which it developed in conjunction with The Hebrew University in Rehovot, Israel, and The Kitchen Hub incubator, Ashdod, Israel.

Low-sugar and GMO-free are top factors when deciding what to eat or drink

We asked 23,000 consumers online in 17 countries how important certain factors are, from a given list, when deciding what to eat or drink.

  • Nearly half of consumers rate “low sugar or sugar-free” and “free from GMO ingredients” as very or extremely important, when deciding what to eat or drink
  • Organic, pro-biotic, fortified and gluten-free products are more important to people aged under 40
  • Income has some effect on people’s ratings, but gender does not
  • Chinese are the most selective on what to eat and drink, out of 17 countries surveyed

Chinese are the most selective on what to eat and drink, out of 17 countries surveyed

In eight out of the nine decision factors researched, China tops the list for having the highest percentage placing importance on that item, when deciding what to eat or drink. The exception is for locally produced products, where Italy takes the lead.

Organic, pro-biotic, fortified and gluten-free products

Products which are organic, fortified with vitamins or minerals, pre- or pro-biotic or gluten-free are more important amongst people aged under 40 years old than amongst those aged 40 plus.

People aged 30-39 are the most selective, compared to other age groups

The most selective food and drink shoppers are those aged 30-39 years old. This group nearly always has the highest percentage rating each of the factors as “very” or “extremely” important.

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Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, Spain, UK and USA.

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The Mexican market is being driven by health concerns and government reforms have pushed the growth of low sugar, healthy goods as it was announced that Mexico had surpassed the US as the country with the highest child obesity rates in the world. Among adults, in 2011, 70 % of Mexicans were overweight, with 30 % of these classed as obese compared to 68 % and 34 % of US citizens, respectively. This trend is predominantly in the rich, urban areas, with large numbers of children and adults in the poorer, rural regions still classed as underweight.

For adults, the problem seems to be longer working hours, which has led to an increase in ‘on-the-go’ consumption and a rise in the sales of fast foods. However, heightened awareness of the nutritional value of food and beverages has led to growth in the sales of packaged water and value-added drinks, such as drinking yogurt and nectars, which have supplementary calcium and anti-oxidant benefits.

In April 2011, the government declared that it would inform all Mexican children of the risks of obesity and has made this a public health issue, highlighting the seriousness of the situation. As part of this, the sale of any food or drink with an excess of 400 calories is now prohibited in schools. This has led many producers to develop drinks with low-sugar content. It has also resulted in an upsurge in the demand for ‘functional’ juice and nectars, with organic products seeing a rise in sales, despite the higher price, as they are generally viewed as healthier.

The rise in obesity has led to a rise in diabetes, further increasing the demand for low-sugar products. Despite this, low calorie variations of several soft drinks categories saw slow growth in 2011. Low-calorie carbonates grew by just over 1 %, compared to its regular counterpart, which experienced 5 % growth. Low-calorie nectars, however, saw a decline of around 17 % as it lost share to the still sweetened flavored water segment, with many producers introducing innovative new flavors.

In contrast to these negative trends, iced/rtd tea drinks saw exceptional growth throughout the year, as these products are increasingly seen as a healthy alternative to carbonates. Low calorie variants grew by around 26 %.

Additionally, regional juice producers have capitalized on the health trend by offering organic variants of soft drinks and marketing certain flavors as health drinks. Canadean expects the trend of low calorie and low sugar products to continue in 2012 and most soft drinks categories are forecast to see growth. However, this is expected to slow as the second wave of economic malaise affects businesses and consumers worldwide. Competition within the soft drinks market will remain rife, for example: juice versus nectars or carbonates versus iced/rtd tea drinks. The promotion of a healthier lifestyle will be the focus of marketing strategies and campaigns.

The information in this press release is from the report, “Mexico Soft Drinks Market Insights 2012”. More details about this report, please click here.