Food technology startup DouxMatok, based near Tel Aviv, Israel, was established three-and-a-half years ago. Gil Horsky, global innovation lead at Mondelēz International, is among the company’s shareholders.
DouxMatok uses silica as a carrier to enhance the sweetness of sugar molecules, meaning brands can use a lot less sugar.
Demand driven by Nestlé announcement
"Our killer application is in chocolate, confectionery and baked goods,” Eran Baniel, CEO and co-founder of DouxMatok, told ConfectioneryNews.
"Last year Nestlé came out with news they had made hollow sugar crystals that work nicely in chocolate and everybody else has now come to our door.
Nestlé said in December last year it would roll out a faster-dissolving, differently structured sugar via a natural process across some of its confectionery range from 2018. It said the method could cut sugar content in chocolate by up to 40%, but gave no further details on the process.
DouxMatok’s method is different to Nestlé’s.
How does it work?
DouxMatok’s chief technology officer Alejandro Marabi described his company’s approach.
"We load sugar molecules into a carrier (silica) – and we take advantage of the physical and chemical properties of this carrier in order to load it with a high concentration of sugar.
"You have to think that you have a compound where the core is loaded with a lot of sugar and it is this compound that is DouxMatok sugar and this compound is what we use in a chocolate for example.”
Marabi joined DouxMatok in January this year following 15 years in Nestlé’s R&D department.
"This DouxMatok sugar is about 99.7% sugar,” he continued. “The carrier is a very tiny amount of the whole. With this carrier, we can increase the sweetness perception.
DouxMatok’s carrier silica is the same silica used widely in the food industry and is already approved for use in foods, said Marabi.
DouxMatok has 14 approved patents related to its process and more than 20 others still pending.
According to Baniel, the process is not GM and uses no chemicals. "This is what you call green chemistry - there are no new molecules, links are hydrogen links, so they are basically physical links rather than chemical links,” he said.
If a brand uses DouxMatok sugar they will have around 30% less sugar than the original product, so will require bulking agents to reach the same weight.
Marabi said DouxMatok has been researching the best bulking agents per application for the past year.
"We know which kind of fillers to use and how to combine them.
“Using fibers is one of them - but every fiber has different properties and different costs. It's very important to choose the right fiber, but we took that one step further by combining different types of fiber for a synergistic effect for the best sensory properties, texture and appearance,” he said.
What's the premium?
But how does the combination of DouxMatok sugar and a mix of fibers push up formulation costs?
Baniel said: "It will depend on the recipes of the chocolate people working with us and it very much depends on how they resolve the bulking.
"When you calculate the savings in sugar reduction when at scale it would cost similar to normal sugar because of the 30-40% of sugar you save. That's when you are scaled up, but there will be stages when our sugar is more expensive."
‘You don’t taste the difference’
He claimed DouxMatok has already been able to match the taste and texture of two global chocolate brands. "You don’t taste the difference," he claimed.
“It looks like sugar, you will process it like sugar, it will behave like sugar and it will taste like sugar,” said the company co-founder.
He added: "You get a very satisfying sweetness and a certain amount of lingering. It comes a tiny bit later and stays longer."
Beet and cane
DouxMatok sugar can be achieved with either refined beet sugar or refined sugarcane.
"We do it in Europe with beet mostly and in other territories mostly with cane. We do not work with GMO sugars at all. And some of the sugars we use are organic,” said Baniel.
How to label?
But could labeling silica (the 0.3% carrier) be a sticking point for confectioners aiming for simpler ingredients declarations?
Baniel said labeling would depending on local laws. "It's very much the decision of the confectionery manufacturer.
“In certain territories you don’t have to label [silica] and you can simply say 'sugar'. In the States it's more vague,” he said.
The CEO said DouxMatok is liaising with the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to have greater clarity on labeling.
The company expects the first product with DouxMatok sugar will hit store shelves in 2019.
"The baked goods guys might even beat the chocolate guys to the shelf,” said Baniel.
DouxMatok last month raised $8.1m in a funding round led by Israel’s largest venture capital fund Pitango.
Baniel said: "We are working with one of the leading sugar refiners in various territories on scaling up [focusing on the US and Europe]"
"We are spoilt by many request to work with us and we are hiring like crazy,” he said.