Prior to founding Unavoo Food Yucal Maymon was a gelato manufacturer who owned a chain of around 50 ice cream shops worldwide. When he was diagnosed with diabetes nine years ago, the sweet treats that had made his business such a success took on a different significance.
Discovering that existing sugar substitutes were either synthetic, contained sugar “one way or another” or “taste terrible”, Maymon sold his ice cream business and focused on developing a sweetener that met his needs.
Fast-forward around 700 trials and “many sleepless nights”. Unavoo has developed what it claims is the first all-natural sweetener, with zero glycemic value, no chemicals and no “hidden sugars”. On top of this, Unavoo claims it delivers a “sugar-like great taste and mouthfeel”.
Natural and healthy
“HEYLO is the only natural sweetener that not only does not contain harmful substances such as sugars of various kinds, artificial substitutes or alcoholic sugars that damage the stomach,” Maymon tells FoodNavigator.
Beyond that, HEYLO actually offers positive health attributes, the Israeli innovator continued. “HEYLO is a completely natural product that contains more than 90% soluble dietary fibre… Soluble dietary fibres are the first recommended component of our diet. These fibres have a great effect on our digestive system as they are parabolic and have an important role in slowing the absorption of sugars from various sources in our body.”
For Maymon, the it was important to develop an all-natural sweetener as an alternative to artificial sweeteners on the market.
“Many studies have taught us about the harmful effects artificial sweeteners have on our bodies,” he suggested. “In fact, these studies suggest that artificial sugar substitutes have the same negative effect on our bodies as if we were consuming sugar.
“The tendency of potential consumers to avoid as much as possible artificial sweeteners, sugar, and alcoholic sugars is reflected in the transition from sugar and its traditional substitutes to natural substitutes such as HEYLO."
More than being healthy, the fibre content of HEYLO serves an important functional purpose. “Fibre actually reduces to a
minimum the bitterness of stevia’s [aftertaste] and at the same time also satisfies a sense of fullness that is so lacking in sugar-free products. The resulting effect simulates almost perfectly the sense of sweetness of white sugar.”
This means that in some applications, HEYLO can deliver 100% sugar reduction. “The level of sugar reduction reaches 100% in products such as soft drinks, carbonated beverages, spreads, dips, salad sauces, dairy products and yogurt, energy bars and more.”
As well as offering HEYLO as an ingredient, Unavoo is developing a consumer facing business comprising of zero-sugar products. These product development capabilities play out in Unavoo’s ability to serve its finished goods ingredient customers.
“We believe that what distinguishes us from other companies is the ability to develop an entire product and bring it to full industrial production so that even if we do not market it, when we reach a manufacturer we will know how to best assimilate our technology in the target products,” Maymon noted.
In this way, Unavoo is positioning itself as a partner in innovation and sugar reduction. The group works closely with its customers to meet their innovation needs. “We insist on full development days at the customer site and do not just leave or send samples. Technologists and chefs on behalf of the company are on intensive flights around the world to assimilate our technology with the world's leading food manufacturers.”
This R&D expertise is crucial to success because the use of HEYLO does present technical challenges similar to those of any sugar replacement ingredient. In particular, when you take out sugar products require a bulking agent. “After achieving the desired taste we face the problem of lack of fillers caused by lack of sugar. We developed technology to use additional fibres from various sources to produce the desired mouth feel and overcome the lack of fillers.”
Gearing up for growth
These efforts are paying off, Maymon revealed, with upcoming announcements on tie-ups with CPG brands planned over the next 12 months.
“In the coming year, we will announce cooperation with one of the world's leading beverage companies, which has developed a complete line of products based on HEYLO.”
Not disclosing further details of this deal, Maymon continued: “Our products will stand out in retail chains around the world and we will begin to replace sugar in the private label products of leading retailers in different regions of the world.”
Looking to the future, Maymon concluded: “We intend to continue leading the technological race…opening more and more possibilities for those who can’t or don’t want to consume sugar or it’s artificial substitutes.”