Botanical-infused gum to stop sweet cravings
With desire to cut back on sugar still an overriding trend in global food and drink, Israeli startup Sweet Victory set about developing a way to curb cravings, rather than wait on food and drink manufacturers to cut sugar content in their products.
In 2022, it launched a gum infused with a proprietary mix of botanicals, including organic gymnema, which it says blocks sugar receptors on the tongue, an effect that lasts for up to two hours and leaves overly sugary foods tasting bland or even sour. The hope is the temporary effect will keep a persistent sweet tooth at bay.
The company has a pretty strong track record already on that front. The results of a consumer study found that more than 80% of people trying out the gum had cut down on their intake of sweets, and that it helped result in weight loss in almost 90% of users, too. Last year, SV even unveiled a child-friendly version of the product.
The 3D printed plant-based salmon fillet
Frustration at a lack of sustainable fishing was the inspiration behind Plantish, the creator of what it claims is the world’s first fully plant-based salmon fillet.
“We’re running out of fish,” sums up Ofek Ron, co-founder and CEO, thanks to growing global consumption and unsustainable and sometimes illegal fishing. “If we keep doing what we’re doing we might end up with an empty ocean, and it might be during our lifetime.” The only way to combat this trajectory, he believes, is to find a way to mimic the experience of consuming fish without the need to drain the world’s oceans.
To do this it set about recreating the format in which 80% of fish is consumed, ie as a fillet. Currently fish alternatives are often focused on minced or bite-size formats as these are technically easier to create, but Plantish wanted to produce the product that most closely echoed the real thing. And so the team deconstructed the individual components that give a salmon fillet its taste and texture, such as proteins, vitamins, minerals and oils. For each they found a plant-based alternative, even replicating the fibrous strands that give it its texture, and applied heat and pressure to create the salmon fillet using 3D printing technology.
Salmon is just the start, they add, with plans in the works to tackle more fish using the same process.
Functional protein inspired by breast milk
Breast milk is the “gold standard for nutrition,” explains Maya Ashkenazi Otmazgin, CEO and co-founder of Maolac. That’s because it’s packed full of antibodies and compounds to help newborn babies develop. To see what this could mean for adult nutrition, the startup carried out an in-depth study, discovering more than 1,500 proteins with different functionalities from supporting immunity, to cognition, gestation and skin and bone development.
Maolac has worked to source these proteins in alternative sources, then plans to sell to existing food manufacturers to incorporate into products including granola bars, yoghurts and soft drinks, allowing them to make tailored functional health claims.
In 2022, Maolac raised $3.2m in seed funding.
The cocktail turbocharging cultivated meat at the world’s biggest manufacturers
Tamar Eigler-Hirsh was studying developmental biology in London when she landed on the innovation that would see her co-found Profuse Technology in 2021 and begin working with some of the world’s biggest cultivated meat producers.
“There’s many hurdles that need to be overcome in order to achieve the scale up of cultivated meat products,” she says. “It needs to be animal-free, it needs to be tasty and finally it needs to happen faster, cheaper and more efficiently. That’s where Profuse comes into the picture.”
In taking a closer look at how stem cells can be turned into muscle tissue – the process on which cultivated meat often relies but which is currently “incredibly inefficient” – Eigler-Hirsh created a cocktail of “simple and inexpensive ingredients” that could be added to the media culture to increase the speed with which they would develop, cutting costs and improving yields.
In fact, by adding the supplement she’s developed, the startup says producers can increase yields 2.5 times, shorten production time by half, and develop muscle with four to five times the amount of protein content.
Such is demand for its innovation that it’s already teaming up with many of the world’s best known cultivated meat companies, creating customised supplements to improve aspects such as the taste, texture and biomass of meat too.
The selective tool that filters out sugar from soft drinks
With the soft drinks industry tearing its hair out to come up with ways to slash sugar, BlueTree Technologies developed a selective tool that, it claims, can reduce sugar content without the need for alternatives and without any impact on taste.
Founded in 2020, the company uses a mixture of filtration and absorption to filter out the disaccharide sucrose.
The other half – the monosaccharides, such as fructose – it leaves in, as this has most responsibility for sweetness, aroma and mouthfeel.
Its selective tool allows the sugar removal to be ultra-targeted, says the company, calculating just the right level of removal to create lower-sugar recipes without affecting consumer experience.
The ‘real’ milk made with microbes instead of a cow
Startup ReMilk argues the problem with most plant-based milks is the huge quantities of water (around 97%) they contain, which makes them pale in comparison to the real dairy. To get around this, the company uses microbes, rather than plants, to create a dairy alternative it says mimics the exact taste and mouthfeel of dairy milk by using precision fermentation.
The process, inspired by cheesemaking, takes only a few days to complete and is versatile enough to replicate any dairy product, says the company.
Earlier this month, it received regulatory approval in Israel to sell and market its product, following similar regulatory green lights in both the US and Singapore.
The ultra-sustainable cultivated scallop
Though it would be easy to get distracted by the perfectly formed cultivated scallops produced by Jerusalem-based Mermade, it’s not the end product that really sets this startup apart from others in the cultivated meat space. It’s the process it has used to create those scallops, which could be applied to any cultivated product and help significantly improve the scalability, cost-effectiveness and sustainability of the technology.
While other cultivated meat producers simply discard the highly costly growth media in which cells develop, Mermade reuses it, leveraging the ‘waste components’ created during this process – much of which is still highly nutrient-dense – and transfers them to a new bioreactor containing microalgae. “We take nutritious, widely available algae and we grow that on the cell waste,” explains co-founder and CEO Daniel Einhorn.
The ammonia-rich waste product enables the production of algal biomass, which in turn is used to feed cells for cultivated products. “It’s a circular method where we utilise what comes out of the cells to feed them later using the magic of microalgae,” says Einhorn.
While the approach could make any cultivated meat more affordable, Mermade is concentrating on scallops as their homogeneity, simple structure and colour make them easy to replicate. Plus, they’re currently produced on a supply chain that is costly, seasonal and unreliable, with plenty of untapped demand in markets like the US. “All problems we could tackle with a constant supply and predictable price,” adds Einhorn.
The invisible packaging to extend shelf life
For decades, companies have grappled with the idea of edible packaging. Now, agritech startup Sufresca looks set to be one of the first to market, with its creation of an invisible edible coating designed to extend the shelf life of fresh fruit & vegetables. The biodegradable coating is made from wholly natural ingredients and creates a breathable coating that acts as a partial barrier for the exchange of gases. This slows down the speed at which food matures post-harvest and thereby slows decay.
In fact, the startup says it can extend shelf-life by several weeks, dramatically cutting down on both in-store and household waste. And, because the solution can be sold straight to processors as a liquid, it’s simple to integrate into supply chains.
The eight most exciting innovations from Israeli foodtech startups
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The eight most exciting innovations from Israeli foodtech startups