On a mission to “empower healthier meals,” Alchemy FoodTech developed a library of proprietary, patented and plant-based fiber blends for manufacturers and consumer packaged goods that it says can “make bad carbs good” by lowering the glycemic index and increasing the fiber content of products high in refined-carbohydrates – all without impacting the appearance, taste or texture of the finished product.
In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food, the founder of Alchemy FoodTech, which recently participated in FoodBytes! 2020 pitch competition, explains how its flagship product, Alchemy Fibre, uses a blend of corn, peas, tapioca, rice, beans and other plants to moderate blood glucose levels, support gut health and immunity, curb hunger and excess calorie consumption. He also shares how adding Alchemy Fibre can help manufacturers improve the health of their business by enhancing shelf-life, flavor and texture, and boosting repeat sales and margins.
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Tackling the diabetes epidemic
The idea for creating a fiber blend that would allow consumers to safely enjoy comfort foods high in refined carbs, like bread and rice, came to Alchemy FoodTech co-founder Alan Phua after he watched friends and family struggle with diabetes and learned in 2014 that there were more people with diabetes in the world than those who had iPhones.
“I’ve seen so many people struggle to deal with diseases, such as diabetes, which is a function of … having to many bad carbs in your diet,” Phua said, adding that while diabetes can be controlled through diet all too often that shift is stymied by people not like the taste or texture of healthier options.
A strong believer that food is medicine, Phua set out to find a way to make daily staples and beloved comfort foods healthier.
After three years of research & development and testing different ingredient blends and prototypes in clinical human studies, Alchemy FoodTech launched Alchemy Fibre as the core fiber blend for a suite of B2B ingredients that can lower the glucose index number of high-carb foods without altering the taste of texture.
“How the fiber works is that it coats the carbohydrate molecules with a protective layer, basically a blend of fibers, both soluble and insoluble, as well as other elements … that makes it harder for the stomach enzymes to bread down the carbohydrates,” he explained. This causes digestion to slow, which in turn slows the release of glucose from foods and defends against blood sugar levels spiking.
Because efficacy was essential for Alchemy, the company conducted human clinical trials through the Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Services and found that adding 10% Alchemy Fibre to white rice drops its glucose index number from close to 75 to about 65, or the same as brown rice.
As important as efficacy is, Phua knew compliance would be difficult if the flavor or texture was altered and so Alchemy FoodTech spent the last two years working closely with manufacturers and food service providers to develop applications for different foods ranging from brioche buns and baguettes to noodles, rice and other secrete family recipes that emphasize taste.
“We are continually adding new ingredients to the library and testing rigorously and routinely” to come up with solutions to slow digestion without affecting taste or texture, Phua said.
He acknowledged texture has been the hardest part to control because some blends work well in some foods but not others and there is no way to know until it has been tested, he explained.
More than an ingredient supplier
To help manufacturers, retailers, food service providers and product developers make the most of Alchemy Fibre, Alchemy FoodTech offers formulation and product development help – services that can be make or break for emerging brands that want to offer better-for-you products but don’t have the technical skills or resources to refine their products.
It also offers one blend as a CPG for consumers to buy at retail and use in their home cooking and has teamed with several packaged food manufacturers to create jointly branded products, such as instant noodles and baking mixes.
While many of these products are available in the Singapore market where Alchemy FoodTech is based, the company recently signed distribution agreements in Canada and the US for its products to appear on shelves soon.
Diverse applications opens doors to diverse channels
As Alchemy FoodTech expands its distribution and gains awareness, the company has moved into some unconventional areas for food, such as the medical community.
Phua explained that several hospitals and medical professionals are impressed by Alchemy Fibre’s clinical research and began recommending it to patients who were managing diet related chronic diseases. Eventually though, he said, they wanted to sell directly to their patients – an opportunity that helped Alchemy Fibre gain consumer trust and sales at the same time.
To full capitalize on these opportunities and support its increased production and distribution, Alchemy FoodTech is seeking corporate partnerships and strategic investments in 2021. In particular, he said, the company is looking for partners in the North American market.
“The type of partner we are looking for could be in the form of a FMCG company. … But we would also be keen to work with solutions providers” that help CPG companies develop new products, Phua explained.