The Upcycler: This sugar alternative made from discarded plants boosts your fiber intake and is kinder to Earth


It’s hard to kick the sugar habit entirely, even when we know our lives can be much healthier without the dozen-plus teaspoons many of us consume daily in cookies, our coffee and sodas and in most processed food we use for meal shortcuts.

In just the U.S., the average adult, teenager and child takes in about 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day, or about 270 calories. While we sometimes add sugar or sweeteners to food or beverages, most of our intake comes from processed and prepared foods, says Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the American Heart Association. Yet sugar brings us joy, in our birthday cakes, Halloween treats and even to enliven savory recipes.

What if we can rethink sugar? That’s what The Supplant Company, a food startup pushing initially into baking chocolate, snack chocolate and packaged cookies but looking for wider kitchen use, has done by grinding up the typically rejected portion of crops and plants.

Rethinking sugar can mean cutting down on how much of it we eat. But change can come by reconsidering how we source sugar and sweeteners. Right now, that’s mostly through sugar cane and sugar beets, as well as high-fructose corn syrup. And then there are artificial sweeteners, which chemically reproduce the sweetening taste of sugar but carry different properties than crop-generated sugars. Still, they can introduce the same negative long-term impacts on our bodies without moderation.

Use the entire plant

Sugary diets aren’t our only challenge. Food waste in much of the developed world, the U.S. in particular, is widespread, fueling extra costs for households and worsening food inequality in a wealthy nation that should have no problem feeding its own population. According to the nonprofit Feeding America, Americans thow away more than $218 billion each year on food. Yet, more than 34 million people, including 9 million children, in the U.S. are food insecure, the USDA says.

For the scientists and their team at The Supplant Company, their approach to sugar addresses a nutritional dilemma and aims to make a dent in the food waste challenge.

“There is going to be 2 billion more people on the planet by 2050. That means we need 50% more food, but we don’t have 50% more land. ”

Simmons said geopolitics isn’t his priority, but it’s an important factor. Even recent headlines as resource- and agricultural-rich Ukraine came under Russian attack might convince more food growers to think of more efficient use of their crops, which will empower them to be less reliant on the whims of global markets.

“All of a sudden, there’s a major supply issue around the production of this sort of base commodity [such as Ukraine’s wheat], crops that supply our food system,” he said. “Every nation has to some degree its own its own food supply. And this basic premise of upcycling food waste, the agricultural inefficiencies of side streams [or the leftovers from harvest], that’s a localized issue across every single nation [and] that can help ameliorate the supply-chain issues.”

Plus, he says, there’s going to be 2 billion more people on the planet by 2050. That means we need 50% more food, but we don’t have 50% more land.

No doubt, sustainability and considered sourcing of food is drawing a premium. Supplant has had a partnership with Thomas Keller’s renowned French Laundry restaurant in California’s Napa Valley, where its chocolate featured in ice creams and baked offerings.

The bars aren’t exclusive to a Michelin-starred chef. Home bakers and chocolate-lovers can order Supplant on the company’s site or on

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