Sugar is a tricky substance. It’s something humanity loves, but we know it causes many adverse effects on our physical health. While there is much more awareness about sugar’s health risks, the environmental consequences of its cultivation are less known. Developments in food science may have found a new form of sweet stuff for coffee, tea, and baked goods. It’s a sustainable method that harnesses the power of plant fibers without overusing land for sugarcane crops.
The idea for this new sugar alternative came out of the U.K. by University of Cambridge postdoctoral fellow Tom Simmons. Simmons was researching a new way to use plant fibers that typically go to waste. Originally looking at a new biofuel source, Simmons wanted to find solutions for other real-world issues: obesity and malnutrition. He also noticed there were serious consequences attached to sugarcane farming and distribution.
This discovery led to the creation of Simmons’ company, Supplant, which aims to develop alternatives that act like typical sugar but are more nutritious because they are adapted from plant fibers.
Beginning its work in 2018, Supplant strives to use all the fiber from all the unwanted or discarded vegetation that doesn’t make it into our food system. Simmons notes how the company takes items like cobs, husks, stalks, and hulls — foodstuffs with rich sources of fiber — then refines these fibers into sugar. Using these fibers reduces the need to plant and harvest sugarcane and saves land from soil erosion due to overplanting.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, traditional sugar is an incredibly wasteful product to grow and ship globally. Around 213 gallons of water are used just to produce a pound of it. Silt and chemical fertilizers also wash into rivers, polluting marine ecosystems and hurting marine life. In addition, deforestation for growing sites is a massive problem in countries like Brazil, where sugarcane exports are a major economic outlet.
Serious physical health problems are also associated with traditional sugar like diabetes, hypoglycemia, heart disease, and obesity.
Supplant’s Sugars from Fiber are exceptionally healthy, with lower calories than the regular type, chock full of probiotics for gut health, and of course, a strong source of fiber. They also don’t cause blood-sugar spikes, so there is no rush or crash.
Supplant’s developments with Sugars from Fiber are going quite well, with lines of chocolate created using the alternative. Much like how candy and other sweet treats have celebrity endorsers, so does Supplant. Chef Thomas Keller, owner and operator of Michelin Star restaurants The French Laundry and Per Se of Napa Valley and New York, respectively, is one.
In an interview with Supplant’s media team, he highlighted how he and Simmons met and how Keller wanted to use Sugars from Fiber in his dishes. “We were drawn to sugars from fiber as an ingredient that could enable us to continue delivering these kinds of nourishing experiences in a way that is healthier and better for the earth,” Keller said. This type of endorsement put Supplant on the map, with Keller also explaining that the cookies and chocolate he made with Simmons’ product were resoundingly successful.
Supplant and Simmons’ work introduces a healthier sweetener, decreases organic waste in landfills, and reduces methane emissions. In addition, Sugars from Fiber can lead to a reduction in agricultural-related pollution and deforestation. Are you looking to cut your sugar or increase your fiber intake? Head to Supplant’s website to peruse their products and see if they tickle your taste buds. You’d be getting a sweet treat and helping the planet.