NovaGreen (www.novagreen.ca), an Alberta-based specialty refinery that aims to make high-value nutritional and environmental products from low-value agricultural biomass, will begin the production of xylitol over the next 24 months.
A naturally occurring sugar substitute, xylitol is roughly as sweet as sucrose with only two-thirds of the calories. Because it cannot be utilized by bacteria to form cavities, this healthy natural sweetener is highly coveted in making sugar-free chewing gum and other dental-friendly products. It’s also safe for diabetics and pre-diabetics, and an excellent mass-market substitute for sugar in many confectionary and dairy products.
“North American food producers look primarily to China or Europe for their xylitol requirements,” says NovaGreen CEO Barry Farquharson. “NovaGreen will provide a domestically available product source that provides a consistently high-quality product for their high-demand functional food solutions.”
The current global market for xylitol is estimated at $400 million to $500 million US; the American market is estimated at $159 million for 2012, and has seen a compound annual growth rate of nearly 25 per cent since 2002. With the assurances of a large-scale supply, xylitol is expected to be more widely used, with emerging opportunities in the future to blend xylitol and sugar to reduce the overall finished product cost while still providing significant consumer benefit. NovaGreen’s production costs are substantially less than the current large-volume wholesale price of about $4.50/kg Cdn, or $2.05/lb.
Current food and beverage applications include desserts; ice cream; jam, bread spreads, and fruit preparations; baked goods; instant sauces and mustards; and chewing gum and confectionaries.
NovaGreen’s ultra-efficient, proprietary Sequential Extraction Technology™ (SET) will convert abundant biomass, such as wheat straw, corn stover, wood chips, and Jerusalem artichoke (jart), into a high-value, highly regarded array of products in both the health and nutrition and the environmental industries. Besides xylitol, products from jart will also include inulin, a soluble dietary fiber, and XOS (xylo-oligosaccharides), another edible fiber with prebiotic function. NovaGreen’s SET process will also yield biochar, for soil amendment and remediation, and activated carbon, used in airborne and soil-based environmental cleanup.
NovaGreen has been awarded $1.8 million from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) for a project that will further develop and demonstrate the cultivation and the processing of jart into xylitol, inulin, and biochar at a pilot-scale facility in east-central Alberta. SDTC is an arms-length, not-for-profit corporation funded by the Government of Canada, which operates two funds aimed at the development and demonstration of innovative clean technology solutions.
NovaGreen, whose production facilities will be based in Killam, Alberta, currently seeks a limited number of accredited investors, via a private $300,000 offering, to augment early-stage business plan continuity. These investment dollars would be used for pre-engineering activities at the demonstration site; for various sub-contract activities related to ongoing agricultural activities; and for early-stage sample preparation of key outputs.