Precision fermentation of sweeteners

Are Sweeteners from Precision Fermentation cheaper and healthier? As RethinkX and Ark Invest state disruption is happening with precision fermentation – be it eggs, fats, proteins or sweeteners. As data shows, humans are getting bigger and more obese with consequent lifestyle diseases. Hundreds of books have urged to restrict sugar intake. If you haven’t read one of these – where have you been?

The global Sugar market size was valued at USD 195 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 2.72% during the forecast period, reaching USD 230 billion by 2028. In contrast, analysts project the global sugar substitute market, worth $17bn today, will be worth more than $28bn in a decade’s time, driven by health concerns and government measures. There’s increasing scientific evidence that artificial sweeteners (including erythritol) can be bad for your health.

Why Artificial Sweeteners?

Added sugar is part of the rise of obesity. It is not the only factor, but food companies are looking for sweeteners to add to food products for people to consume more food. So lower calory sweeteners, with reduced glycemic impact are

WHO rise in obesity
Most countries have increasing rates of obestity and medical costs from lifestyle diseases. World Health Organization estimate about 2 billion people in the world, including tens of millions of children, suffer from overweight and obesity, more than suffer from malnutrition

Books To Stop Consuming Added Sugar

Most books reflect the saying “Eat Food, Mostly Vegetables, Not Too Much” as Michael Pollan coined the phrase. A simple change for consumers to shop around the outside of shops reduces prepared food intake. I.e. Whole fresh or frozen foods. However, consumers mostly eat prepared foods. These have added salt sugar and flavourings, and are food products, not food.

Consumers Like Sugar and Most Won’t Stop

Because people like sugar and become addicted. but are are aware of the empty calories, the global sweetener market in food and beverage is a multi-billion dollar industry. Precision fermentation enables production of new sugars – taste without the calories. Most are aware of the original aspartame, stevia and other sweeteners added to food products and the challenge is to have the taste, the mouth feel and consumer preferences.

Precision Fermentation Decreases Costs

The quest to find healthy and cheap sweeteners by the BBC explores this. Multiple patents are listed here. Artificial sweeteners have challenges as aftertaste and mouth-feel can be problematic. Sugar also plays an important part in texture, browning colour and shelf-life – roles that the alternatives can fail to fill.


A low-calorie sugar alternative with 70% sweetness of sugar, negligible impact on blood sugar, and found naturally in small quantities in figs and raisins. It has been produced from fructose, which is expensive, but Ambrosia Bio uses precision fermentation to create it from sucrose. The structural difference between D-allulose and D-fructose is located at the paired C2–C3 atoms


Tagatose is found in dairy products, formed when milk is heated. It is similar in texture and appearance to sucrose but is 92% as sweet but with only 38% of the calories. While it has been around since 1988, lower production costs make it attractive.  US-based startup Bonumose, with the assistance of ASR Group, the world’s largest refiner of cane sugar, opened a new plant to produce at lower cost.


Erythritol is found naturally in some foods. It’s also made when things like wine, beer, and cheese ferment. Besides its natural form, erythritol has also been a man-made sweetener since 1990. The FDA says erythritol is good for oral health because it slows the growth of one type of that bacteria and decreases the acid that bacteria make.

Supplant – Sugars from Fibre

New bulking sweeteners from the Supplant Company has developed a low-calorie (50% lower than sugar), low glycemic response product which is mildly sweet. Supplant produces it from agricultural waste, including cobs, husks, stems and stalks, using enzymes found in fungi.

Silica Anti Caking

A Israeli start-up, Incredo, embeds sugar crystals with the inert mineral silica (sand). Silica is commonly used in small amounts in food. E.g. an anti-caking agent

Sweet Proteins

Six sweet-tasting proteins (thaumatin, pentadin, curculin, mabinlin, brazzein, monellin) come from tropical plants as does the taste-modifying protein miraculin. These proteins are thousands-fold sweeter than sucrose. (ref 1).

Sweet ProteinFromNotes
Recombinant thaumatin (E957)Officially permitted as both a sweetener and taste enhancer in the United States and in the European Union [3, 4].
Monellinisolated from the leaves and fruits of the African plant Dioscoreophyllum cumminsii.Natural monellin is a polypeptide with a molecular weight of 11.4 kDa, consisting of 94 amino acids arranged in two non-covalently associated chains. According to various estimates, monellin is up to 3000 times sweeter than sucrose. The use of natural monellin as a sweetener is complicated by the fact that the compound is not temperature- or pH-stable. Heating above 50 °C leads to denaturation and loss of the sweet taste. Thermal stability might be increased by modifying and mutating the protein.
BrazzeinRipe fruits of the wild West African plant Pentadiplandra brazzeana.Smallest of the sweet-tasting proteins. The brazzein peptide chain, consisting of 54 amino acids, has a molecular weight of only 6.5 kDa. The structure’s simplicity and stabilization by four disulfide bonds determines brazzein’s high resistance to elevated temperatures and extreme pH values. The protein does not lose its properties during a 2 h incubation at 98 °C and at a 4 h 80 °C incubation in a 2.5–8 pH range. Brazzein is 500–2000 times sweeter than sucrose, depending on the concentration of the comparison solution.
PentadinFruit of oubli (Pentadiplandra brazzeana BaillonPentadin is found in the same fruit as brazzein. 500 times sweeter than sucrose. Wikipedia
Mabinlinmabinlang (Capparis masaikai)Mabinlins are sweet-tasting proteins extracted from the seed of mabinlang (Capparis masaikai Levl.), a plant growing in Yunnan province of China (Wikipedia)
CurculinCurculigo latifoliaFrom Malaysia ee
MiraculinBerries of the Miracle Fruit plant fruit of Synsepalum dulcificum (Wikipedia)not sweet in and of itself. It binds to sweet receptors to cause sour-tasting acidic foods to be perceived as sweet, for up to 2 hours. Miraculin is a taste modifier, a glycoprotein extracted from the Miracle fruit

Impact on Land Use

US-based start-up Oobli produces these sweet proteins (brazzeine) by fermenting sugar using genetically modified yeast. As they point out a 1% reduction in sugar cane production would result in 260,000 ha (650,000 ac) saved.

Abu Dhabi company Novel Foods has signed a $500 million production deal with Abu Dhabi. (Novel Foods). The deal was signed between Novel Foods Group, a subsidiary of the investment conglomerate Gewan Holding, Glatt Group, a German expert in plant engineering, BioEngineering AG, a Swiss company specialized in engineering and design, and CB Consultancy AG, a Swiss company engineering solutions for cutting-edge industries.

Sweetener Comparison Table

Sweetener NameChemical StructureNatural/ArtificialMajor Corporations
Sucrose (Table Sugar)C₁₂H₂₂O₁₁NaturalCargill, Südzucker, American Sugar Refining
Fructose (Fruit Sugar)C₆H₁₂O₆NaturalADM, Ingredion, Tate & Lyle
Glucose (Blood Sugar)C₆H₁₂O₆NaturalCargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Ebro Foods
Corn Syrup (High-Fructose)Mix of sucrose + fructoseProcessed from corn starchADM, Cargill, Ingredion
Lactose (Milk Sugar)C₁₂H₂₂O₁₁NaturalFonterra, Lactalis, Nestle
HoneyComplex mixture of sugars, including fructose, glucose, maltose, and sucroseNaturalPatties Foods, Wedderspoon, Manuka Health
Maple SyrupMixture of sucrose, fructose, and glucoseNaturalMcCormick & Company, Reynolds Consumer Products, Bush Brothers & Company
Agave NectarMixture of fructose and glucoseNaturalHain Celestial Group, NOW Foods, Wholesome Sweeteners
SteviaC₂₉H₃₈O₁₁NaturalCargill, PureCircle, Steviva
AspartameC₁₄H₁₈N₂O₅ArtificialAjinomoto, Nutrasweet, Hermes Sweeteners
SucraloseC₁₂H₁₈Cl₆O₃ArtificialTate & Lyle, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company
SaccharinC₇H₅NO₃SArtificialMerck KGaA, Perrigo Company, McNeil Consumer Healthcare
Acesulfame PotassiumC₂H₄KNO₄SArtificialSanofi, Hoechst AG, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company
AlluoseC₆H₁₂O₆Precision FermentationS&W Seed Company, Bio-alternatives International, Ambrosia
TagatoseC₆H₁₂O₆Precision Fermentation
BrazzeinPrecision FermentationNovel Foods group builds $500m factory in Press Release Mar 2024
Sourced by Bard.Google and other searches- checked for details

More Reading

  1. Mary Ann Augustin, Carol J. Hartley, Gregory Maloney & Simone Tyndall (14 Jan 2023): Innovation in precision fermentation for food ingredients, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2023.2166014
  2. Novik, T.S.; Koveshnikova, E.I.; Kotlobay, A.A.; Sycheva, L.P.; Kurochkina, K.G.; Averina, O.A.; Belopolskaya, M.V.; Sergiev, P.V.; Dontsova, O.A.; Lazarev, V.N.; et al. Sweet-Tasting Natural Proteins Brazzein and Monellin: Safe Sugar Substitutes for the Food Industry. Foods 202312, 4065.
  3. Jiang, P.; Ji, Q.; Liu, Z.; Snyder, L.A.; Benard, L.M.J.; Margolskee, R.F.; Max, M. The cysteine-rich region of T1R3 determines responses to intensely sweet proteins. J. Biol. Chem. 2004, 279, 45068–45075.
  4. Fitzgerald, R.; Fortes, C.; Halldorsson, T.; LeBlanc, J.C.; Lindtner, O.; Mortensen, A.; Ntzani, E.; Wallace, H.; Civitella, C.; Horvath, Z.; et al. Re-evaluation of thaumatin (E 957) as food additive. EFSA J. 2021, 19, e06884