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Gum that targets sugar craving wins innovation award [Interview]

Article-Gum that targets sugar craving wins innovation award [Interview]

Vitafoods Europe 23 | © Steve Burden Photography Sweet Victory Gum - Startup Innovation Challenge Award Winner: Most Innovative Finished Nutraceutical Product
Sweet Victory Gum, a plant-based functional confectionery that can help consumers overcome sugar cravings, was recognised as the most innovative finished nutraceutical product at the Vitafoods Startup Innovation Challenge. We spoke with co-founders Shimrit Lev and Gitit Lahav about the motivation behind their product, and what this award means to them.

Despite the fact that consumers are more informed and health conscious than ever, reducing sugar remains a challenge. Israeli startup Sweet Victory saw an opportunity to help consumers here, by developing a natural plant-based gum that prevents sugar craving.

What sets Sweet Victory Gum apart is its active ingredient - an extract from the Gymnema Sylvestre plant. By blocking certain taste receptors on the tongue - gymnemic acid molecules are very similar to glucose molecules – sugary foods lose their sweet taste for up to two hours.

Winning this award for our chewing gum was very exciting,” says Lev. “When we heard that there was a competition during Vitafoods for products like ours, we prepared as best we could. It was fantastic to be able to pitch in front of a room full of judges, and when we heard our name announced, it was a great moment!

A tool to reduce sugar intake

Lev and Lahav are entrepreneurs and best friends. Both have suffered health challenges in their lives, and these experiences compelled them to change their diets. In particular, they found sugar cravings hard to overcome.

We worked for ten years in this sector, and recognised a market need here,” says Lahav. “We wanted to help consumers like us to overcome sugar challenges in an easy and fun way.

This led to the establishment of Sweet Victory in 2020. After formulating their unique product, it was launched onto the Israeli market. “We think of it as a tool to help people eat healthier and follow a healthier lifestyle,” says Lev.

After three minutes of chewing, the active ingredient blocks receptors on the tongue, and sugary foods lose their sweet taste. Blocking this sweet taste stops craving, because the reward-loop to and from the brain is cut.

The chewing gum is available in four flavours, and comes in packaging that looks similar to standard confectionery.

We did not want to position the product to look like medicine, even if there is a correlation to addressing diabetes etc.” says Lahav. “Instead, we wanted to target the majority of consumers who want to reduce sugar craving and intake. Even people in good health can benefit from this product.

A Home Usage Test (HUT) found that around 80 % of consumers who used Sweet Victory Gum managed to significantly reduce their sugar intake, while 90 % reported losing weight. “This is not a weight loss product, but these results show the potential indirect benefits,” says Lev.

Figuring out regulations and finding partners

Moving forward, a key challenge for Lev and Lahav is understanding the regulatory requirements in different countries, and finding partners in each of these to help them bring their product to market. The product is currently being sold in Israel, and will be launched in the summer of 2023 in Sweden.

We are currently in talks with several European companies as supplements regulations here are relatively straightforward,” says Lev.

At Vitafoods, Lev and Lahav were able to meet over 60 distributors from across Europe, and believe they made a strong impression for an early-stage startup. They are still working through their leads. “We also had lots of people stopping by at our booth to taste our gum,” says Lev. Future product development will explore expanding the variety of flavours, in addition to the current peppermint, spearmint, bubble-gum and watermelon.