The brainchild of Israeli entrepreneur Yuval Maymon at Unavoo Food Technologies - who has recently been granted a US patent on the technology - HEYLO combines the two ingredients in a precise ratio using a proprietary high-precision blending technique that delivers a clean taste and functionality in food formulations that DIY attempts cannot replicate, claimed HEYLO chief marketing officer Jeremy Cage.
Put it this way, Cage told FoodNavigator-USA, you can try throwing in some stevia and gum acacia into your formulation and see what happens, but you won’t get the same results.
“And if they do replicate exactly what we’ve got, which is patent protected, well that’s a different conversation.”
So what is protected?
“The patent covers the levels [of the two ingredients], the formulation, and the interaction of the carrier with the sweetener," said Cage.
"And what’s exciting, let’s say that someone comes up with the next commercially viable stevia, whatever that is, we could actually use that in the same context, because the patent covers the interaction between the two, we’d be protected, so we believe it enables us to continue to innovate as new sweeteners come on board, rather than being locked into a sweetener X or Y.”
The size of the prize
He added: “There is a massive unmet consumer need here. Americans eat 165 pounds of sugar a year, and we’ve got an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, but the products out there today still don’t deliver a truly viable alternative to sugar.”
As for the size of the prize, he said: “The sugar alternative market is estimated at $16-20bn – although I actually think it’s potentially a lot larger than that - and we’ve created something that for the first time means that people don’t have to compromise. People that have tried this product have just been blown away, so yes, this is a really breakthrough product that could ultimately make sugar obsolete.”
HEYLO is made from water-extracted stevia and acacia fiber, which is also known as acacia gum or gum arabic, a soluble fiber from the gum secreted from stems and branches of the Acacia tree, grown in several African countries. A non-digestible polysaccharide that is completely fermented in the colon, gum acacia is soluble, but is not viscous.
As a result, HEYLO won’t change a formulation’s viscosity, density or pH and is also extremely stable under most processing and storage conditions, claims chief marketing officer Jeremy Cage.
HEYLO – which is already available in commercial quantities to b2b customers - will be available in three forms when it is launched as a b2c brand later this year:
- Organic Brown Sugar Alternative
- Natural White Sugar Alternative
Bulking agents can comprise 80-90%+ of tabletop sugar replacers
Cage explained: “All of the big guns in the industry have been focusing their attention on finding the next big high intensity sweetener such as stevia. But they have paid far less attention to the bulking agents [erythritol, maltodextrin, dextrose, sugar alcohols such as maltitol and sorbitol]” that are typically combined with stevia in order to make a viable sugar replacer in applications requiring bulk or body.
And these carriers, he noted, can account for 80-90% of the sugar replacer, but all have distinct drawbacks, from digestive issues, to taste issues and perception problems (they are manufactured commercially in a way many consumers do not consider ‘natural’).
“You often still need to use masking agents [eg. natural flavors] in addition to these carriers to mask the bitterness of the stevia, whereas the acacia fiber in HEYLO blocks the off notes on its own so you have a cleaner taste. I also think that the way some of the sugar replacers are labeled is deceptive, even though it’s legal. For example, you can combine dextrose with stevia [in tabletop sweetener products such as Zing, PureVia, Stevia in the Raw, and Skinnygirl] in a one-gram packet and say it’s ‘zero sugar,’ but that’s misleading.”
Dextrose is a simple sugar (D-glucose) but can be used in sweeteners marketed as having zero sugar and zero calories owing to labeling rules that allow foods with fewer than five calories per serving to be labeled in this way, he explained.
“We want people to be able to enjoy products that taste just as good [as the full sugar versions] without any trade off, whether it’s on taste, texture or gut health.”
From a labeling perspective, meanwhile, HEYLO can be labeled natural dietary fiber (or acacia fiber) and stevia extract, he said, which are both ingredients that consumers feel comfortable with, while the product also comes with the health benefits associated with the prebiotic fiber.
While there is still a question mark hanging over whether gum acacia (and scores of other non-digestible carbohydrates such as chicory root fiber) will be classified as dietary fibers by the FDA (click HERE) and can be listed as grams of fiber on the new look Nutrition Facts panel, this is not proving a stumbling block for HEYLO, he observed, given that food companies are looking at it as a sugar replacement play, not a fiber enrichment play.
First a B2B launch, then a B2C launch…
So what’s the business plan?
First a business-to-business launch, followed by a business-to-consumer launch later this year, said Cage, who started his career at Procter & Gamble before spending a decade at PepsiCo in senior marketing and innovation roles, and has teamed up with a series of food industry veterans* to commercialize HEYLO in the US and other markets.
“We’ve got partners working on a range of applications from ketchup to nut butters, salad dressings, cookies, ice cream, yogurt, non-carbonated and lightly carbonated beverages, jam, chocolate, chocolate milk and flavored water.”
As HEYLO (which is water soluble) is 10-15 times sweeter than sugar, it is not typically possible to do a one for one drop-in replacement in applications where bulking is important (such as baked goods, for example), although this is possible in beverages and some other formulations, he said.
"We have a client that is completely removing sugar from its flavored waters; a client replacing all the added sugar in its jams and jellies (there will still be some natural sugar from the fruit); and a client looking at complete elimination of sugar in its ice cream."
Pricing and distribution
As for cost, the price is competitive, he said: “It’s around 13 times more expensive than sugar, but then you can use 13 times less, depending on the application.”
To distribute the product, which is available in commercial quantities, the HEYLO team has struck a deal with Royal Ingredients LLC, the US subsidiary of leading sugar distributor ED&F Man, which had been looking to invest in a viable sugar alternative for some years and has invested in HEYLO, he said.
“Royal Ingredients will act as our sales team, distributor, warehousing and in some cases manufacturing partner, and wherever ED&F Man has an operation, we now have globally a lot of infrastructure already in place that we can leverage.”
*Board members include Jack Sinclair (chairman), a former EVP grocery for Walmart; Jack Dweck, CEO and co-founder of Earthbound LLC; Greg Duppler, former EVP grocery at Target; and Jeremy Cage, formerly SVP Global Snacks at PepsiCo.