Joywell Foods announced today it has closed a $6.9 million Series A round to further develop its plant-based sweeteners derived from the proteins of “exotic fruits.” The round was led by Evolv Ventures with participation from Khosla Ventures, SOSV, Alumni Ventures Group, and other investors. It brings Joywell’s total funding to $13.2 million.
Joywell says it will use the new funds to build out its proprietary platform, which uses both plants and fermentation technology to create healthier sweeteners derived from the protein of certain fruits. Right now, that includes the so-called miracle berry, otherwise known as synsepalum dulcificum. The berry contains a protein called miraculin, whose sweetness “is up to 5500x that of sugar,” according to today’s press release. Joywell has so far commercialized one product, a popsicle, using miraculin.
Joywell told AgFunder News today that it is also working with another plant-based protein called brazzein, which is derived from the Oubli plant common to West Africa. Part of the new funds will be used to further develop products from this as well as other plant-based proteins, which the company says it will test through limited retail and direct-to-consumer channels.
Joywell’s work addresses a massive and well-documented problem in the U.S. food system: sugar consumption. The average American consumers roughly 17 teaspoons of sugar per day, which is 57 pounds of sugar every year, according to the University of California San Francisco. Excessive sugar consumption, as most of us know, can lead to health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Tech startups are tackling this problem with a range of different ways. Magic Spoon uses an ingredient called Allulose in place of sugar in its line of cereals, for example. Other companies are bypassing alternative ingredients altogether and experimenting with ways to improve the existing sugar we’re all so addicted to. An Israeli company called DouxMatok, for instance, combines sugar with food-grade silica to make it more efficient. That in turn allows companies to use 40 percent less sugar in their products.
Joywell’s use of miraculin actually modifies the taste of food, so that even something sour can taste sweet if miraculin is added. The company says it has a range of potential applications, from baking to dairy to frozen desserts. In doing so, the company hopes to help reduce, if not outright eliminate, our overeliance on sugar in the foods we eat.