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“Sugar” from the sun: Start-up powers allulose with solar panels

April 22, 2020
Food & Drink

Start-up Savanna Ingredients is producing allulose – “real sugar without calories” – using power from the sun. The Germany-based company has installed solar panels on the roofs of all production and warehouse facilities on the Savanna site in Elsdorf in a project it calls Savanna Solar One.

The move comes less than a month after the start-up received self-affirmed Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status for allulose in the US for its allulose ingredient.

Although allulose has not yet been approved for use in Europe as a food ingredient, it is already being used for formulation in the US and the start-up is positive about its future growth. “We have seen overwhelmingly positive feedback from the national and international press [on the production of allulose]. We take that as proof that there is a strong desire for many people to have real sugar without calories,” Dr. Timo Koch, Managing Director of Savanna Ingredients, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

The company sees the sun as its ally in further expansion. The company uses the sun’s energy twice –  once in our manufacturing process in Elsdorf and once in the fields when growing the Rhenish sugar beet. “The sugar beet is one of the plants with the best CO2 storage capacity, which also helps the environment. It is important to us that we can sustainably produce our sugar without calories using electricity from renewable energy. With this, we rely fully on the power of the sun,” adds Dr. Koch.

“The solar system allows us to generate the majority of the energy that we need for the production of allulose and cellobiose from sunlight. The system is connected to the public power grid to feed unnecessary energy into the grid if necessary,” says Stephan Mohr, Head of Process and Process Development.

Functional carbohydrates for calorie reduction
The solar panels will also power the production of cellobiose on site. Cellobiose is another functional carbohydrate that works as lactose-free lactose. With it, people suffering from lactose intolerance can replace lactose. Koch also notes that it contains half the calories of classic granulated sugar.

Savanna Ingredients develops “functional carbohydrates”: new types of sugar with specific properties. With allulose, “we refine the natural beet sugar by further developing its molecular structure, even coding it and in a way ‘encapsulating’ the calorie. Our body no longer recognizes allulose as a source of energy during metabolism,” says Dr. Koch.

The body does not use the allulose and the calories are excreted. Officially, the ingredient registers as having a 0.2 kcal calorie content. Studies also show a very low glycemic index and insulin response for allulose, making it suitable for people who have diabetes.

Savanna’s work in the field of functional carbohydrates is currently supported by public funding. The overall goal of the current research and development project (SMARBS – Smart Carbohydrates) is to develop and test novel, low-calorie and health-friendly sugars in food formulations – these should make an active contribution to balanced and healthy nutrition.

Allulose use in industry innovation
Allulose has gained attention in recent years for its potential as a low-calorie sweetener being about 70 percent as sweet as table sugar. The application of the ingredient is expected to expand following an important breakthrough in labeling regulation last year in the US.

Acknowledging the differences in metabolism compared to other sugars, the US Food and Drug Administration released a Guidance Draft, stating that allulose may be labeled with a caloric value of 0.4 kcal/g. Additionally, Allulose only counts towards “total carbohydrates” and no longer towards “sugars” on the nutrition facts label.

Allulose can be used for a wide variety of applications such as beverages, baked goods, candies and gummies. More about formulation with allulose can be found in Allulose: Taking on the Formulation Challenge, an editorial highlight from The World of Food Ingredients. 

By: Missy Green

Source: Food Ingredients First

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