Bonumose, a Charlottesville, Va., startup that has developed ways to process rare and healthy sugars, has raised $2 million in a fresh funding round led by German food and beverage giant Symrise.
Its prior backers include The Hershey Company; privately held American Sugar Refining, of West Palm Beach, Fla.; the Charlottesville Angel Network; Cayman Islands-registered Argonautic Ventures iSelect Fund (Brentwood, Miss.); Lagomaj Capital (Santa Ana, Calif.); and Cure8 Ventures (St. Louis, Miss.)
Hershey and ASR participated in a $9 million Series B round in 2021. Bonumose used that amount to build its first commercial-scale tagatose and allulose production plant. So far, Bonumose has raised $14.3 million.
‘Closest Match to Sugar’
“It works in everything, and it’s got this great flavor to it,” Bonumose co-founder and CEO Ed Rogers said of the healthy sugar the company produces, at the opening of the company’s processing plant in March. “And then it’s functional. One of the things that the sugar guys say is that it works more like sugar than any other alternatives,” added Rogers, who has led the company since its inception.
Bonumose initially aimed to commercialize Dr. Daniel Wichelecki’s enzymatic technology to produce tagatose, which occurs naturally in some fruits and in some dairy products. Since then, Wichelecki, a co-founder who serves as the company’s chief scientific officer, and his team have developed technologies to produce sugars from other inexpensive ingredients, such as allulose, allose, D-mannose and others.
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Experts say that sugars from tagatose, allulose and several other ingredients contain fewer calories than traditional sugars, and have a lower glycemic index value, making it a healthier alternative for many, including people suffering from diabetes. In taste, tagatose is claimed to closely match that of sugar, giving it a likely edge over other sugar alternatives. However, the FDA still classifies tagatose as an “added sugar,” but not allulose, which contains only 0.4 calories per gram.
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“We’ve seen this investment as an opportunity to enable rare sugars to have both more accessibility and more affordability for consumers so they have better-for-you choices and snacks,” Jordana Swank, director of technology development and futures R&D for Hershey, said at the opening of Bonumose’s processing plant in March.
Bonumose plans to launch a consumer-facing tagatose brand this year. That brand would sell sugars both in small packets for sweetening beverages in restaurants and other beverage stations, and for home use in larger quantities, according to Rogers.