“When we looked for a sugar partner in Europe, we wanted the biggest and the best; a company that can really make our sugar be the next generation of sugar,” Douxmatok CEO Eran Baniel told FoodNavigator, and Südzucker fitted the bill.
“They are well spread over Europe and also understand specialty ingredients as they have the Beneo subsidiary.
“We found ourselves also using Beneo’s fillers and fibres [as a bulking agent to replace the lost volume and mouthfeel of sugar] so it seemed to be a natural marriage. Plus the fact that two major potential customers in Europe source most of their sugar from those guys,” Baniel added, without naming names.
The sugar delivery molecule, which FoodNavigator first reported on back in 2015, can be used in chocolate, spreads, snack bars, biscuits, baked goods and confectionery.
Beverages have proven trickier, however, as the bonds between the silica and sucrose particles can break.
Baniel admitted “it’s still a problem” but said the company is considering a large-scale research project to overcome the problem and has identified a potential partner.
DouxMatok’s technology, which is protected through 14 granted patents, uses an inert silica-based mineral carrier onto which sugar molecules are ‘loaded’. This results in a more efficient delivery method, meaning the same sweetness is tasted with 40% less sugar.
The silica itself is tasteless, odourless and calorie-free and passes safely through the body, and DouxMatok’s sugar can be used as normal sucrose and is suitable for freezing, heating and baking.
Price equivalent to sugar ‘sweetness for sweetness’
The company, which is currently in negotiations with a US partner for the US market, began scaling up at Südzucker’s Offstein plant, near Frankfurt, in January, testing out crystallised and solidified samples to see which worked best in applications, how to optimise quality and bring down the price.
“We are in the position today where for every kilo made at Südzucker, there are at least 20 hands stretched out to receive a sample.”
A Family Affair
Baniel describes working with Südzucker as “making his vision come true”.
“Rather than working with someone who can make this a wonderful niche, we decided to work with guys who can make us wonderful mainstream.”
The success of DouxMatok’s sugar is close to Baniel's heart as the delivery molecule was developed by his father, Avraham Baniel, who used to be part of Tate and Lyle's Splenda team.
“My father will celebrate his 100th birthday in November and I hope by then I'll be able to give him some birthday cake that contains our product."
Samples will be available in the last quarter of this year, and commercial quantities should be available in the second half of 2019, Baniel said.
In order to make its ingredient a viable and attractive choice for the food industry, it is aiming to be price equivalent to standard sugar.
“When at scale we think we can be at equivalent price to sugar, sweetness for sweetness. So if we reduce the sugar is a product by 50%, for half a kilo of DouxMatok you would have the price of one kilo of sugar. But the price per sweetness is same and so, at end of day, the sweetness of the product should not change.”
The food industry's 'Intel Inside'
Now that commercialisation is underway, the company is developing its branding and is in the process of creating a logo that manufacturers could add to packs.
DouxMatok is aiming for food manufacturers to think of it as the food industry equivalent to ‘Intel Inside’, the technology that powers most computers. "We hope to have the brand logo and ‘DouxMatok Inside’ on food and drink products.”
So, how does DouxMatok’s sugar compare to its nearest rival, Nestlé’s restructured sugar which can reduce the sugar content in confectionery by up to 40%, and was launched in the UK and Ireland this year in its Milky Way Wowsomes brand?
Baniel didn’t comment on the functionality of the two but did say: “Nestlé’s announcement about their hollow sugar was the best business development boost we had. Anyone who wasn’t Nestlé called us up to say ‘What can you give us that will beat their sugar?’.
“I hope they won’t ask us to pay for the extra publicity,” he added. “At the end of the day, it proves the point. When you use sugar to reduce the sweetness in food, that’s when you’re going to win because you don’t have any after taste.”
The company initially started working on nano-sized particles but later abandoned this idea, partly due to the regulatory barriers and partly because it wasn’t necessary; micro-sized particles are efficient enough.
DouxMatok’s ingredient has been approved for the European market from a safety point of view, but just how label-friendly are micro-sized silica particles?
According to Baniel , the particles are so small that they fall below the legal declaration threshold (its sugar is 99.75% sucrose) and so do not have to appear on an ingredient list, although the company recommends that, in the interests of full transparency, customers do list silica.
Silicon dioxide (silica) is an approved food additive in Europe and is used as an anti-caking agent, and it exists naturally in Evian water.
This autumn DouxMatok will be launching its series B funding with the aim of raising $15 million (€12.8m). The round is already over-subscribed, Baniel said, with a mix of strategic and financial investors including both old and new faces.
Previous funding rounds raised $3.5m (€3m) and $8.1m (€6.9m).
The company has also its sights set on other nutrients, and has done successful lab-scale testing on salt and vanilla. It has filed patents for the salt molecules, which are pending, but the current focus on sugar doesn’t leave much time, Baniel said.
“We hope to do this once we close the next round of funding,” he added.