An Organic Sugar Substitute That Tastes Good
In Western cultures, there are some topics that you aren’t supposed to raise in casual conversations without people getting a little bit upset. For example, you really shouldn’t remark that someone appears to be overweight. In China, however, all bets are off. Don’t be surprised if a Chinese person tells you that you’re looking a bit fatter when you get back from holidays, or just makes a general comment that you look fat. It seems as if Western cultures are somehow embarrassed about being fat, so they try to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes by saying things like “big is beautiful.” Even Wired – the magazine that used to focus on technology – recently wrote about how “Watching Our Weight Could Be Killing Us” and dispensed the following pearl of wisdom:
Some activists challenge dieters to exit the cult of food restriction by doing rad things like skipping the gym and eating salty, fatty, sugary fast food (including McNuggets)—whenever the spirit moves you.
Brilliant. Just what the 36% of Americans who are obese need to hear.
Big is Not Beautiful
Celebrating obesity as if it’s something to be proud of is a slap in the face of medical science which states that “being overweight or obese carries a range of negative health consequences,” and obesity is incredibly costly in a financial sense. That’s according to an article by Medical News Today titled “The numbers behind obesity” which states that in 2008, the annual medical cost of obesity was estimated to be $147 billion in the U.S. alone. That’s because “the health risks associated with obesity are many; they include an overall increased risk of death from all causes, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and mental illness.” Let’s just dispense with this feel-good “big is beautiful” rubbish and agree that obesity benefits nobody.
When it comes to where obesity has taken its biggest hold, you may be surprised to see the results. Here are the countries with the most and least obesity, according to the World Health Organization as of 2016:
With the “big is beautiful” mantra slathering the front of America’s newsstands like a rich country gravy, the only way to fight obesity in the United States may be to trick the Americans into eating less sugar without them knowing it.
Founded in 2013, Denver Colorado startup MycoTechnology is a “food technology company that utilizes fungi-based food-processing platforms to transform the flavor and value of agricultural products.” The company has taken in nearly $83 million so far from a broad range of investors including some very large corporations in the food industry including:
- ContiGroup – multinational agribusiness firm and one of the largest privately held corporations in the United States
- Bunge (BG) – publicly traded $7.75 billion food processing firm with 32,000 employees and 2017 revenues of over $45 billion
- Tyson Foods (TSN) – publicly traded $22 billion food firm with 132,000 employees – the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork
- Kellogg (K) – publicly traded $20 billion food company that produces ready-to-eat cereal and convenience foods, serving them in 180 countries
The caliber of investors on display here helps give a vote of confidence to the MycoTechnology platform and provides some deep pockets which can help the startup scale quickly. So, what exactly is MycoTechnology doing? They’re using mushrooms to produce food additives that solve a variety of different problems.
Their flagship product, ClearTaste, serves as both an organic sugar substitute and a food additive for flavor masking. And it’s already approved in 76 different countries around the world.
Sugar and Flavor Masking
Sugar is in nearly everything we eat. It is estimated that 74% of all packaged foods contain some amount of added sugar, and the average American currently consumes around 23 teaspoons of sugar per day. Why so much sugar? That’s because sugar is the most commonly used substance for “flavor masking.” That’s why it’s found in nearly everything. Flavorists will often use sugar to cover up bitter, astringent, sour, metallic, or general off-notes in products. It’s the same reason why many people add sugar to their coffee. One way to solve this problem is by using sugar substitutes.
Since research suggests that high sugar diets are directly linked to obesity and diabetes, there is a strong demand for sugar substitutes. You may be familiar with common sugar substitutes like Splenda and Equal which are food additives that provide a sweet taste like that of sugar while having almost no calories. However, neither of these products are organic and there have been negative perceptions about these brands for a variety of reasons. When it comes to organic sugar substitutes, one option is a plant extract called Stevia which is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but contains no calories or artificial ingredients.
While the Japanese have been using Stevia as an organic sugar substitute for decades, it is only now coming on stage in the Western world. One major problem with Stevia is that it leaves a bitter aftertaste in one’s mouth, and MycoTechnology addresses this problem with ClearTaste, the world’s first organic bitter blocker. Here’s the product in action:
The ability for ClearTaste to block the bitterness of Stevia is just one use case for this substance. Remember how we said that sugar is the most commonly used substance for flavor masking? ClearTaste can address the flavor challenges of raw materials, allowing companies to reduce sugar by 25 to 50% in their products. ClearTaste can also be used with non-caloric organic sweeteners like Stevia to ultimately replace 100% of the sugar content in products since ClearTaste fixes the flavor challenges of these high-intensity sweeteners. We can actually trick people into becoming healthier and they won’t even notice. Isn’t technology great?
More Uses for Fungi
Turns out that mushrooms have even more uses than masking flavors in foods, rounding out your bordelaise sauce, or helping you trip your balls off while watching James and Giant Peach. They might actually be able to help feed all the people that are expected to arrive on this planet in the coming decades. MycoTechnology recently signed a lease on an 86,000 sq ft (8,000 sq. meters) commercial facility in Aurora, Colorado to produce their latest product, PureTaste, a completely vegan vegetable protein made through the fermentation of Shiitake mushrooms. The protein is non-GMO with a cereal taste and neutral aroma making it ideal for new product development. The commercial facility will initially be able to produce 4,000 metric tons of PureTaste per year.
Many people think that obesity is a first-world problem but it isn’t. Even in emerging markets, it is not uncommon to see under-nutrition and obesity coexisting, and according to the aforementioned article on the obesity epidemic, “most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.” Then we need to consider the impact of obesity on our planet, something we talked about recently in our article on carbon dioxide removal. People who are obese tend to consume more food than people who aren’t, which means that by battling obesity we’re also incidentally helping to solve the problem of how we’re going to feed the world’s growing population.
You may have come across this article while searching for an “organic sugar substitute that tastes good” which means you’ve probably had some that haven’t tasted good, and you’re genuinely interested in cutting back on sugar. That’s great. Keep it up. With all the delicious food to be found in America, it’s not an easy battle. At least companies like MycoTechnology are helping to make it just a tiny bit easier for those of us who could stand to lose a few extra pounds.