A spoonful of (fiber) sugar

Dr Tom Simmons looks at how we can potentially solve some of the world’s most pressing health and sustainability challenges with Sugars from Fiber.

In a world that eagerly consumes as much as 180 million tons of sugar annually, the inevitable result of sugarcane agriculture is as much as 400 million tons of carbon emissions per year.1 

The food industry faces increasing demand for products that are better for the planet and for people’s health. However, manufacturers face significant challenges in catering to consumers who still want to enjoy their favourite treats but share concerns about environmental sustainability and health. 

Moreover, it’s no secret that sugarcane production creates environmental problems that go beyond atmospheric carbon.2 Wastewater runoff from fields and production facilities contributes to eutrophication in sensitive riparian ecosystems. The fertiliser and pesticide inputs needed to maintain the sugarcane monoculture threaten biodiversity, as does the need for deforestation to create additional arable land. Sugarcane is also an inefficient plant, with only 20 percent of the crop biomass being sucrose. 

Meanwhile, there’s a growing awareness that obesity, diabetes, heart disease can be linked to overconsumption of sugar.3 It has also been indirectly linked with an increased risk of cancer.4

However, dietary changes can be difficult to implement, and the trade-offs between products that are perceived as healthy, and those that are perceived as sustainable, make for confusing consumer choices. 

All these factors create a compelling opportunity for companies that produce more sustainable and healthier versions of the foods people already love to consume. Given the global taste for sugar, it stands to reason that if a sustainable and healthier option were readily available to displace sugar made from sugarcane, consumers’ preference for products that are better for the environment and for themselves could also lead to substantial carbon savings.  

One sustainable product solves three challenges at once