‘We want to move snacks from candy to food…’ Torr FoodTech raises $12m to form snack bars using compression and ultrasonic waves instead of sugary binders
The funding round - led by Harel Insurance Investment and Financial Services, with participation by existing investors Mondelēz International, The Kitchen Hub and Strauss Group – will help the firm continue R&D work, increase production capacity, and hire new talent, said CEO Roy Naaman, a food industry veteran who held senior roles at SodaStream International and Mondelēz International before joining Torr FoodTech in May 2020.
'We use equipment from the ultrasonic energy industry that has not been used before for food'
So how does the technology work?
The patent-pending ‘iWeld’ technology – a combination of compression and ultrasonic waves (sound waves with a frequency beyond the limits of human hearing) developed by Gil De Picciotto (COO) and Yoel Benesh (CTO) – effectively binds together natural ingredients from nuts and fruit to grains, without damaging their structural integrity, nutritional profile or shelf-life.
“If you were to only use pressure, eventually you would just crush the ingredients,” Naaman told FoodNavigator-USA. “But we then use equipment from the ultrasonic energy industry that has not been used before for food.”
This enables companies to ditch sugary binders such as brown rice syrup and glucose syrup that are routinely used to hold snack bars together, said Naaman, adding: “We want to move snacks from candy to food.”
Asked if you have to add water to the mix, he said: “We create a very low level of humidity,” but stressed that the shelf-life of the snacks Torr has worked on has not been negatively impacted.
“One of the biggest achievements in our tech is that it doesn't damage the structure of the natural ingredients because the nutrients themselves are not being exposed to high heat.”
'We can bring to life textures that are not available with current technologies'
While the ability to make no added sugar claims is compelling to many snack brands, the approach also cleans up labels; allows the flavors of the individual ingredients in bars to shine; saves money as firms do not have to expend energy heating and cooling bars; and unlocks novel ‘multi-textural’ experiences, claimed Naaman.
“We can bring to life textures that are not available with current technologies, so we can have multi-layered-textures, crunchy nuts, chewy fruits. The flavors are also so much better, as if you use sugary binders they can have a masking effect and you lose the integrity of the flavors," said Naaman, who has partnered with Mondelēz’s SnackFutures arm to create pressed bars under the Dirt Kitchen brand in the US (which is now available at Sprouts), and with Strauss Group in Israel on snacks under Upland brand.
It also enables the production of novel savory snacks, which have historically been challenging to produce given the need to bind ingredients together with something sugary, enabling new types of snack combinations, such as hard cheeses and beef jerky, or seaweed and other ingredients, said Naaman.
'We have relationships with most of the biggest CPG players in the world'
Given the proprietary nature of Torr's work, rather than selling or leasing equipment or technology, Torr FoodTech manufactures snacks in its own production facility in Tnuvot, Israel for CPG partners, and is also about to launch its own brand of snacks called PRESTEEZ targeting the European market, said Naaman.
“We have relationships with most of the biggest CPG players in the world already today.”
Asked about production capacity, he said: “I would say what we have now is a mid-sized commercial line, which will allow us to execute everything that we see in the next, I would say, 12-18 months, and after that we will build capacity either on our own or with a co-manufacturer, but essentially we own the technology.”
R&D work is also continuing as the firm explores new categories where its technology could apply, he said: “I think the sky's the limit for us in terms of which categories and what consumer offer we can bring. We're still learning ourselves.”