As more and more companies look to curb food waste, fruit scraps and ugly pieces of produce that once went into the compost bin or trash can are finding second lives. Juice pulp has been turned into popsicles, wonky veggies into soups, and now Dutch company Fooditive is turning leftovers from apples and pears, along with the pieces of fruit that are unfit for supermarkets, into a chemical-free sweetener.
Current sugar substitutes are considered a growing environmental hazard; artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame, found in Splenda and Equal, aren’t absorbed by our bodies nor are completely removed by wastewater treatment plants, meaning these sweeteners end up in rivers and oceans, potentially harming aquatic plant and animal life.
Regular cane sugar is the cause of global health problems, and its cultivation is taking an environmental toll, too, requiring intense water use and causing soil erosion and pollution from processing sugarcane. Natural sweeteners like honey have their own complications. Stevia, the natural sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, is known to have a bitter aftertaste, so beverage companies that use stevia often mix it with other artificial sweeteners.
Fooditive, founded by food scientist Moayad Abushokhedim, aims to be a natural alternative to those other sweetener options in a way that’s healthy for the planet and our own bodies. Fooditive takes third-grade apples and pears—those ones with brown spots or off colors, which wouldn’t be sold in a supermarket—from local Dutch farmers, along with some fruit scraps, and extracts the natural fructose through a fermentation process. The final result is a calorie-free sweetener without many of the concerns of both sugar and other sugar substitutes.
Beyond the sweetener, Fooditive also makes all-natural preserving agents for things like sauces, soups, and bakery items out of carrot waste, thickening agents from banana skins, and emulsifiers from potato extracts. The company is collaborating with Rotterdam Circulair, a Netherlands company focused on reusing and recycling waste, with the goal of establishing a circular economy in the city of Rotterdam by 2030.
“Our products really provide the food and beverage producers with the ability to have a clean label, a green label, and show people what’s in their food,” says Geiles. Right now, the company is working in the business-to-business market, partnering with a third-party food industry company called Bodec to get its sustainable sweetener into Dutch products. Geiles says it’s already being used by a Dutch beverage company, though he couldn’t name specific brands.
Fooditive is also registered in Sweden, and next Geiles says the company hopes to expand to other Nordic countries, Jordan (where founder Abushokhedim is from), and the United Kingdom. U.S. food regulations make the move stateside a bit difficult, but Geiles says they’re hoping to bring their sustainable products here as well.