Reinventing sugar: “We believe in utilizing sugar in the best possible way,” says Tosla CEO

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04 Feb 2019 --- Slovenia-based Tosla, a manufacturer of premium natural syrups, sweeteners and liquid compounds has been aiming to “reinvent sugar,” as the company taps in to new strategies and technologies for sugar reduction. According to the company CEO, Primoz Artac, sugar reduction will remain high on the agenda in 2019 and the need for a cleaner label is more complex than initially expected.

In January 2018, FoodIngredientsFirst reported that Tosla’s SLADCORE project was approved in the latest Phase 1 round in the Horizon 2020 SME Instruments program. The product was touted as delivering increased sweetness, utilizing breakthrough plug-n-play sugar manufacturing technology.

Thanks to the EU contribution, the company now has the funding to conclude lab trials and prepare the feasibility study for the next phase application under the Horizon 2020 SME Instruments financing.

Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Artac explains: “We are still in a phase where we are seeking partners so we can offer several non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and we continue to explore this.”

As Tosla is a small-sized company, Artac notes that much of its focus is on the research following time spent on the SLADCORE project this past year. In the past, the company has been significantly driven by sugar reduction, clean label and transparency trends that we so often see in today’s food industry, he says.  

SLADCORE has been a notable step forward for the company but another area that Tosla is exploring relates to prebiotics, developed from sucrose. Artac notes that “we want to increase the efficiency of the methods driving the opportunities from sucrose.”

“We have established the basic principles and we have been able to produce smaller quantities of a few grams. What we’d like to do next is do this on a larger scale,” he says. “However, from a time and cost perspective, it would be easier if we were a larger company. We have to take each step as it comes, but we are enjoying all the benefits and headaches of a start-up.”

“We are in frequent communication with our partners and we know what needs to be done to become more successful. This  is the nature of an innovation-driven company,” he adds.

“Sucrose, as we say, is the king of sweeteners, from our point of view, it just needs to get better. We don’t believe that you can completely replace sugar, we believe in utilizing sugar in the best possible way for the specific application, and it’s not only taste that it offers but also bulking, masking and so on,” says Artac. 

“Consumers expect more in terms of transparency; they’ve become very educated and they can identify strange or unknown ingredients from food labels. Of course, it is up to the companies who provide acceptable and transparent solutions and thus, this is something that we will focus on over the next years and sugar reduction will be something that will come with that,” Artac explains. 

The challenges that lie ahead involve providing this at an acceptable cost; one that consumers see as being appealing. “What is both acceptable to the companies and the consumers – that’s a tough problem to deal with,” he continues. “In fact, I don’t see much of an opportunity here, I see more problems arising in this instance, when it comes to food use and its costs.”

According to Artac, consumers read declarations but they don’t understand the basic principles of why food is so affordable and available. “On the other hand, we need to respond to this trend, but mainly need to put more emphasis on the education, and support government regulations and business, and the food industry can support this,” he comments. 

Artac also notes that consumer trends and expectations can be hard to meet: “Consumers expect food companies to deliver ‘basic’ flavor concepts, but most of the offerings are too complex for them to truly understand. It is often a juggle between consumer needs, our technological abilities and clean label, so we do recognize this as an opportunity, but we also understand that it is a competitive space.”

“We do see a lot happening with the big food companies, but frequently it has been the same people involved for the best part – we need to change this corporate mentality which I believe could be a very a difficult task,” he contends.

Artac also notes that small-sized companies similar to Tosla, are making offerings more diverse and more of a reality: “We can respond quicker, we can have things quickly aligned and we can move forward efficiently. Often with bigger companies, they have to go through an approval process to make the step forward, but if we wait for that step forward, the whole industry could be behind.” 

Artac additionally notes the importance of the digital market. “This is intended for education, growth and we are investing in this area in the coming year,” he notes. “We also plan to expand our partnerships and relationships in the industry, with the SLADCORE project we made a lot of new advances, so we are aiming to take these even further. Every new friendship is a new story for us. So in our case, I think that there is no corporate strategy, only for relationship building, but as a company, we have a strong sentiment. The road may be long and challenging but it will be part of our journey.”

“We are also hoping to enable companies to go ‘clean’ in their use of sugar syrups and we have also commissioned an independent study on life cycle assessments on our products. We strive to achieve full traceability but there is still a lot more that we can do to become even more transparent for our customers,” he concludes. 

By Elizabeth Green 

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