September/October 2021

Cutting down on sugar in fruit juice
By Melanie Epp, contributing writer

Israeli company Better Juice has developed groundbreaking new technology that naturally lowers sugar content in juice and products using juice.

Two U.S. companies are using the technology at pilot scale, but plan to go commercial by January 2022. Sugar-reduced juice offers new options for diabetics and companies looking to lower overall sugar content in food items that contain fruit juice.

How it works

Better Juice technology reduces sugar from natural sources, such as juice, honey, agave and maple syrup. Both fruit and vegetable juices contain natural sources of glucose, fructose and sucrose. Using an enzymatic reaction, Better Juice converts sugar to non-digestible, much less calorie dense molecules. Each sugar has its own enzymatic combination, explained co-founder and CEO Eran Blachinsky. Grape juice, for example, has a lot of glucose and fructose, but no sucrose, and orange juice has a lot of sucrose, but very little glucose and fructose.

The enzymatic reaction is done using a non-GMO microorganism in a special bioreactor. While the microorganisms are immobilized, the enzymes remain active. As the juice flows through the bioreactor, the enzymes convert sugar. Sucrose is converted to dietary fiber, glucose is converted to gluconic acid, and fructose is converted to sorbitol.

“In general, we improve the juice,” said Blachinsky. “That’s why I called the company Better Juice.”

Pilot production begins

Already, two U.S. companies are using Better Juice technology at pilot scale. Although Blachinsky was not at liberty to share which companies have adopted the technology, he did say they hope to install the first commercial-scale operation at one of the two companies in January 2022.

The technology is non-proprietary and will be made available to other companies should they be interested.

The process does add a cost to the final product. For juice, it adds a cost of about 10 cents per liter, said Blachinsky.

“Some companies say they can absorb this,” he said. “Some companies say that they will use it as a niche product.”

The resulting lowered-sugar juice can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, it can be used in juice beverages to lower sugar content, but it can also be used in ice cream, jam and other food products containing juice. The margins will be different, depending on the end product, Blachinsky pointed out.

One of the obvious concerns about reducing sugar content is how it will affect overall taste. In juice-added beverages this isn’t a problem, assured Blachinsky. Sugar content of the added juice can be reduced by as much as 80-90%. The processor can use artificial or innate natural sweeteners such as stevia or aspartame to replace the sweetness.

In natural fruit juice, however, it is only possible to reduce sugar content by 30% using Better Juice technology. While there is a palatable difference in the resulting juice, some people say they like it even better than the real thing, said Blachinsky.

“Juice is very often too sweet for adults,” he said.

Interestingly, the conversion process doesn’t completely get rid of sweetness. While the overall sugar content is reduced, the resulting dietary fiber, sorbitol and gluconic acid are still sweet.

“They’re not as sweet as the original one, but they’re sweet,” said Blachinsky.

“The decline in sweetness is not linear to the decline of sugar reduction,” he added. “So, if we reduce 30% of the sugar, we don’t reduce 30% of the sweetness, but we do reduce the sweetness by 10-15%.”

Better Juice technology could be a game-changer for the industry. There is nothing else like it on the market today — at least not for reducing sugars from natural sources. Sugar-lowered juice could even provide new options for diabetics who cannot consume glucose in high levels, but would still benefit from the vitamins and minerals in juice.

“I think that the technology is revolutionary,” Blachinsky concluded. “The market is demanding sugar reduction everywhere.”

Blachinsky works in partnership with co-founder, vice president of business development and COO Gali Yarom.


Be sure to check out our other specialty agriculture brands

Organic Grower