Singapore sugar company successfully produced healthy sugars

Nutrition Innovation is among 50 global businesses to win UN award for its low-GI brown sugar.

Sugar has a bad rap when it comes to healthy eating, but one company is set on changing that. Singapore-based food technology company Nutrition Innovation produces raw sugar that is healthier and is packed with more nutrients and fibre compared with refined white sugar. The brown sugar is of low glycaemic index (GI), which means it releases energy slowly so blood sugar levels do not spike. Other low-GI food items include brown rice, wholemeal bread and some fruits. Yesterday, the company was among 50 global small businesses to win an inaugural United Nations competition titled Best Small Business: Good Food For All. Announced at the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome, the winners were recognised for their contributions to healthier, sustainable and affordable food, in the light of food security issues that will be exacerbated by climate change and the growing world population. Nutrition Innovation is the only company in Singapore that won the award.

Its brown sugar, called Nucane, is sold in Sheng Siong and Hao Mart outlets here, under the brand, The Better Brown. It retails at around $2.85 a kilogram. The sugar has been tested to show that it releases energy and glucose into the bloodstream at a 20 per cent slower rate compared with refined white sugar, said Nutrition Innovation founder David Kannar. In 2019, the sugar was tested to be of low glycaemic index by Temasek Polytechnic’s Glycemic Index Research Unit. To create its brown sugar, Nutrition Innovation uses a patented processing technology that helps the sugarcane plant retain its natural micronutrients, called polyphenols, which can slow the body’s ability to absorb sugar, said Dr Kannar.

On the other hand, refined white sugar contains very few nutrients, and it causes blood sugar levels to spike, according to the Health Promotion Board. Sugary foods such as cakes and candies may not make you feel full for long, and will increase cravings. Nutrition Innovation also claims that the brown sugar tastes about 10 per cent to 20 per cent sweeter than white sugar, due to the natural caramel flavours from the brown sugar. “So you should use approximately 10 per cent to 20 per cent less of the sugar when baking and cooking… depending on the recipe or type of food,” said Dr Kannar. “People should not over-consume any carbohydrate. Instead, they should consume better and less refined carbohydrates.” Each of the 50 small businesses received US$2,000 (S$2,720) from the UN. They will also be given opportunities to network and find partners to scale up their products. Dr Kannar said: “(The award) shines a global spotlight on our innovation, so that others can be compelled to also create healthier choices.” Other winners of the UN competition include a tilapia fish breeding farm in Laos, a country that has been seeing diminishing fish stocks in its waters.