Ingredient start-up Fooditive “likes to tackle the big issues”, from diet-related illnesses to climate change. The Dutch supplier’s innovative portfolio – ranging from vegan casein to calorie-free sweetener and sodium-reduced salt substitute – reflects its focus on providing healthy and affordable food.
Fooditive’s most recent innovation aims to support this goal in the same way, with climate change in mind. The start-up is relying on precision fermentation to develop a substitute for honey – a product that Fooditive CEO and founder Moayad Abushokedim says will become “much less available” in the coming years.
“Honey will become inaccessible”
Bees are the world’s main pollinators, responsible for pollinating more than 70% of crops grown worldwide.
Being cold-blooded, bees are impacted by the temperature of their environment. Climate change could therefore have a negative impact on their biology, behavior and distribution. As temperatures rise, food availability for bees could also be reduced.
The severity of drought in some regions is already having a detrimental effect on honey production, through direct impacts on water resources and nectar availability. Fooditive’s Abushokedim expects this trend to continue.
“Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that we are struggling with climate change. We should all bear the responsibility to contribute to better products made with love for a better tomorrow. Honey will not be accessible to so many people in 10 years, either because it will be difficult to obtain or too expensive.
Fooditive develops honey without bees to ensure future supply at an affordable price. “Our goal is to provide healthy and affordable food,” he told FoodNavigator.
Enzymes derived from precision fermentation
The start-up leverages the same technology applied to its vegan casein. The main difference is that casein is a protein, whereas in Fooditive’s bee-free honey, the company produces enzymes.
“Honey has a differentiation of complexity. There are actually three types of enzymes in honey…. And there is a glucose and a fructose combined with these enzymes,” explained Abushokedim.
Fooditive will take advantage of precision fermentation to develop these three enzymes separately, before bringing them together in the “same exact combination”. The start-up doesn’t expect the end product to be bio-identical to honey, but Abushokhedim said it will “definitely mimic the honey we get from bees.”
Ultimately, Fooditive sees an opportunity to incorporate its own sweeteners – currently under review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – to reduce calorie content.
“A lot of people forget that honey is high in calories. It is still high in sugar. We do not promote it as a healthy product [at this stage]but it is a more environmentally friendly product.
Honey: the “perfect preservative”
By mimicking honey, Fooditive aims to replicate flavor and mouthfeel in food and beverage applications. The start-up is also targeting the functionality of honey.
“Honey not only has the perfect texture, but it has the perfect preservative effect,” explained the founder of Fooditive. In fact, in ancient times, honey was used as a food preservative because its high concentration of sugar forces the water out of potential food contaminants, such as yeasts or bacteria.
“Honey will never develop mold or mess. The water content is so low, only about 3% of the actual product. That’s also how you get the sticky effect,” we have been told. Honey is still used as a food preservative, the founder continued, “It is still used in many products and applications, ranging from candies to liquors.”
The start-up plans to sell its honey-like ingredient in other categories, including bakery and frozen confectionery. “The ice cream industry uses [honey] as well, to provide a creamier texture.
However, being developed from genetically modified yeast and produced by precision fermentation, it is likely that the ingredient will first have to circumvent Novel Foods clearance in Europe.
“Opening new doors for honey”
Fooditive hopes to start testing its honey-like product with customers next year. Its two main target markets are Europe and Asia.
“In Europe we use honey, but it’s not in as much demand as in Asia – one of the biggest users. We see huge opportunities for us in Singapore, for example, because they have easier access [regulatory] process in this category, the founder told this publication.
Once established in the B2B category, Fooditive will explore selling its honey-like product in retail. Regardless of the format, Fooditive is confident it will “open new doors” to honey.