Protein as a sweetener: Joywell Foods snags US$6.9m investment
21 Jul 2020 --- US-based food technology company Joywell Foods will further develop its sweet protein portfolio thanks to receiving US$6.9 million in Series A financing round. The funding was led by Evolv Ventures, a venture fund backed by Kraft Heinz. Joywell Foods states that these funds bring it “one step closer” to its company vision of eradicating the prevalence of sugar throughout daily lifestyles – “no matter what your diet is.”
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10 percent of the US population was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2018. “That is over 34 million people. Another 88 million people (34 percent of the population) had pre-diabetes. This is just one frightening example of why we must urgently find solutions to help people consume less sugar while learning to eat better,” Karen Huh, Joywell’s CEO, flags to NutritionInsight.
Joywell Foods is building a new category of foods based on naturally sweet proteins. The proteins are derived from exotic fruits that evolved to provide sweetness without sugar or negative health impacts, notes the company, which uses its proprietary technology platform to produce proteins using both plants and fermentation technology.
Its flagship protein is miraculin, which is sourced from miracle berry fruits (Synsepalum dulcificum). Joywell Foods highlights miraculin’s sweetness can be up to 5,500 times that of sugar when consumed as a pure ingredient or in a food product. When consumed together, it also makes sour fruits like lemons and limes taste sweet. Miracle berry fruit can also be used to enhance the flavor and sweetness of other fruits.
all-natural, new generation sweeteners, including monk fruit and allulose. This highlights their interest in sugar reduction and healthy living, says the market researcher. Meanwhile, Millennials are also very familiar with new types of protein, reflecting their interest in plant-based diets, according to a 2019 Innova Consumer Survey.Innova Market Insights reveals that Millennials are particularly familiar with
Strides against (too much) sugar
The battle against overindulgence in sugar comes as its overconsumption is associated with the growth of Type 2 diabetes, morbid obesity and chronic inflammation, Huh outlines. Research shows that sugary drinks – including fruit juice and soda – may increase the overall risk of cancer, a serious public health concern the UK has been keen to tackle via its Soft Drink Industry Levy.
Huh identifies the rise of the paleo and ketogenic diets that have emerged to address sugar consumption. “This is reflected in consumer packaging where the amount of sugar is a key point of difference. Yet despite these efforts, we are getting fatter and sicker,” she warns.
Amid the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)’s virtual meeting and food expo, dubbed SHIFT20, Marshall Weston, Senior Food Scientist at Ingredion shared with NutritionInsight that the keto-friendly diet and its strict nutrition guidelines are extremely challenging for product developers. “The reduced sugar can have an impact on sweetness and texture, while enhanced protein content is often also desirable,” he detailed.
Sugar reduction also remains top-of-mind for businesses and consumers outside of the sweet category.“When we think about sugar reduction, many assume it’s all about sweet food applications,” Helena Branco, Biorigin’s Global Food Application Specialist, also told FoodIngredientsFirst during last week’s SHIFT20. “But that is not always the case; many savory products use sugar in their formulations. This will become a rising opportunity.” The Brazilian ingredients company is notably looking into reducing sugar content in ketchup.
Previously known as Miraculex, Joywell Foods will also use the new capital to build upon its proprietary technology platform and expand its R&D operations. Moreover, the company plans to test a number of consumer offerings through D2C and limited retail.
Combined with a previous seed round, this latest raise brings Joywell Foods’s total funding to $13.2 million. The company also counts Khosla Ventures, SOSV and Alumni Ventures Group as its investors.
By Anni Schleicher, with additional reporting from Gaynor Selby
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