The Strange History of Sugar

Sugar has a strange history, with some estimates noting that it was first domesticated in 8,000 B.C. At one point, the granulated sweetener was considered an exotic novelty. Things began to change, however, in the year 1500, as technological improvements and New World sources changed sugar from a “fine spice” into a bulk commodity, according to Wikipedia. By 1540, there were 800 cane sugar mills in Santa Catarina Island alone. The expansion of production helped lead sugar to a boom in popularity, particularly in Britain, by the 18th century. That popularity continued into the modern day.

Well, to be fair, that popularity continued almost unscathed until a few years ago. In January 2014, reports began surfacing of a film called Fed Up that likened Americans’ love for sugar to cigarettes. The film argued that Americans would begin to reject sugar in light of medical statistics linked to the sweetener, much like Americans began to abandon cigarettes in the wake of data about their health impact. Although this stirred up negative public opinion about sugar, leading to bans in New York City and San Francisco, for much of the country, sugar remains a popular ingredient in soft drinks and snacks.

Whether they realize it or not, most Americans demand sugar through their purchasing power today. It has become such a ubiquitous part of our food that it becomes difficult to imagine removing it altogether. The debate between artificial and natural sweeteners also evolved in this climate, trying to find low-calorie ways to emulate the familiar sweetness of sugar. However, even these artificial sugars cannot steer clear of health implications in reports and research, claiming that they are linked to various cancers.

Perhaps that is why DouxMatok, an Israel-based startup, is generating such interest in its “flavor delivery” technology that promises to increase sweetness with natural sugar. Depending on the food, the technology can cut sugar by 25% to 55%, which is cheaper than a normal recipe. The company claims that foods it treats with the technology retains the same sweetness with up to half the actual sugar.

Obviously, further testing will be required before we can claim that the DouxMatok technology is safe and effective, but many Americans are excited about the possibility that they will be able have their cake and eat it, too.