Life is sweet for Edinburgh sugar-substitute investor

A former senior director of the old Scottish & Newcastle Breweries business has invested 'a six-figure sum' in setting up a 'natural' sugar substitute venture in Edinburgh.

Individual Calo sugar granules are five times sweeter than regular sugar.

John Botia, founder of Calo International, has launched Calo sugar granules and Calo sugar replacement drops, derived wholly from sugar cane extract.

Botia joined Scottish & Newcastle in 1994 and was human resources director of the drinks giant when it was taken over by Heineken and Carlsberg in 2008, subsequently holding senior posts with both the Dutch and Danish brewers.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He said: “These exciting new products represent a genuine breakthrough in food technology. There are many sweeteners in the UK that offer consumers low or no calorie alternatives to sugar.

“But until now the ingredients they have used to provide the sweetness invariably leave a bitter or metallic aftertaste which also compromises their ability to replace sugar in baking and cooking recipes.”

Botia said that by combining sucrose and customised sucralose, individual Calo sugar granules were five times sweeter than regular sugar and “reduce the calorie count by 80 per cent”.

He said the business was in its “fledgling” stage and run from his home as a Scottish start-up at present, but he was in talks with manufacturers and retailers “including one or two household names”.

The new venture came about when Botia was managing director for Carlsberg in Singapore and through one of its distributor was introduced to two food technologists in Malaysia who had launched the product in that country and were looking to expand geographically.

“They were great techonologists but not commercial people, and at that time I was wondering what to do and decided I wanted to give this a go,” Botia said.

He paid for the rights to take the product to market in western Europe and rebrand it for a western audience for what was sold in Malaysia under names such as Treasure Drops.

Botia said he had high hopes for the business to expand geographically because “sugar-related obesity concerns are so high on the agenda. Obesity has risen enormously across the world.

“We want people to consume fewer calories, and the obvious solution is to have a product that has the same flavour profile as sugar but is much lower in calories.

“These are products that genuinely taste like regular sugar with no nasty aftertaste and only a fraction of the calories”.