Wits & Weights | Nutrition, Lifting, Muscle, Metabolism, & Fat Loss

Ep 103: Sweet Proteins, Food Science, and the Future of Sweeteners with Jason Ryder

September 08, 2023 Jason Ryder Episode 103
Wits & Weights | Nutrition, Lifting, Muscle, Metabolism, & Fat Loss
Ep 103: Sweet Proteins, Food Science, and the Future of Sweeteners with Jason Ryder
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Show Notes Transcript

Have you ever heard of sweet proteins? If not, you’re in for a treat, pun intended, as we dive into this topic with Jason Ryder, CTO and Co-Founder of Oobli, a food technology company building a new category of food and beverages based on naturally sweet proteins.

You'll learn about sweet proteins, the science behind them, their health benefits, and where to find them. Jason will discuss sweet proteins' significance in our diet, how they will change the food industry, their health benefits, and how they're made.

Jason had senior technological leadership roles at Amyris, Bolt Threads, and Hampton Creek / Eat JUST before Oobli. He received a B.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama and the University of California at Berkeley, respectively. Jason became Adjunct Professor and Executive Director of the Master of Bioprocess Engineering (MBPE) program in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UC Berkeley in 2018.

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[2:19] Interest and motivation in food technology and sweet proteins
[6:16] The science of sweet proteins
[10:24] Role and benefits of sweet proteins
[14:21] Human propensity for sweetness and the added sugar dilemma
[18:40] Health implications of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols
[20:28] Quantity of sweet proteins in products
[27:41] Production process of sweet proteins
[30:19] Challenges in scaling production and increasing awareness
[33:27] Influence of academic role at UC Berkeley on his work
[35:09] Impact of sweet proteins on the food industry
[39:22] Addressing criticisms and skepticism
[41:07] Excitement and future vision for the field of sweet proteins
[42:10] Potential applications of sweet proteins in other foods and drinks
[49:28] The question Jason wished Philip had asked
[51:51] Where to learn more about Oobli
[53:09] Outro

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Jason Ryder:

sweetness comes in a lot of joyful places. And I think normalizing that that's good by separating it from the negative health effects is really important to us as a human society, because we need to have joy and we also need to have health. And we very much view sweet proteins as one of the key tools and helping us reestablish that connection right. Both joy in and health can live in the same place around Sweden's

Philip Pape:

Welcome to the Wits& Weights podcast. I'm your host, Philip pape, and this twice a week podcast is dedicated to helping you achieve physical self mastery by getting stronger, optimizing your nutrition and upgrading your body composition will uncover science backed strategies for movement, metabolism, muscle and mindset with a skeptical eye on the fitness industry so you can look and feel your absolute best. Let's dive right in. Wits& Weights community Welcome to another episode of the Wits & Weights podcast. Have you ever heard of sweet proteins? If not, because I haven't, you're in for a treat pun intended. As we dive into this topic with Jason, writer, CTO and co founder of Uber li a food technology company building a new category of food and beverages based on naturally sweet proteins. You'll learn about these sweet proteins from the science behind them to their potential health benefits to what foods you might find them in. Jason will share his insights on the role of sweet proteins in our diet and how they're poised to disrupt the food industry, not to mention the effects on our health and even how they're made. Prior to Uli Jason spent time in senior technical leadership roles at a virus bolt threads and Hampton Creek eat just he earned a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Alabama. So real scientists here on the show, and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of California Berkeley. In 2018, Jason joined the UC Berkeley faculty in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, where he currently serves as adjunct professor and Executive Director of the Master bioprocess engineering program. Jason, welcome to the show. Thanks,

Jason Ryder:

Philip. Great to be here.

Philip Pape:

Man. I'm excited to learn about this because I don't know anything about sweet proteins and I withheld from doing too much research intentionally so that I can learn it from the man himself. I do want to learn a little bit about you and your personal motivations before we jump into the topic. So how did you get interested in food technology for one and sweet protein specifically, and sort of what are your values and personal connection to all of this?

Jason Ryder:

Sure thing. So I'd say you got me right. And the intro, I am a chemical engineer by training. But I'm a sustainable bioprocess engineer by choice. And growing up in Alabama had strong sensibilities about sustainability. Even back in the 80s and 90s. Before you know, the rest of the world really appreciated what our choices as humans were, you know, what, what impacts they were having on on us from a climate, food and health perspective. And so all of my work up to date has been figuring out different ways to harness sustainable technologies like bio processing, to address those problems, including when I was at amorous working on various renewable chemicals and fuels via fermentation technology up through materials that was the bolt threads. And all the way through the last 678 years of my life focused on foods. Sweet proteins was a really interesting one for me, in terms of applying my skill set, which is mostly around fermentation technologies to address that, and it came along in the form of Foodtech, I was working on a different problem making an egg replacement product at each us that just egg product and stumbled across through a biotech incubator, my co founder who was working on sweet proteins, and his interest in sweet proteins was around his grandmother who had cancer, which is horrible, but also the chemotherapy treatments she was getting which are horrible, what they don't tell you is you oftentimes lose your taste. And one of these sweet proteins from the miracle berry it's called miraculous and enables you to regain the tastebuds, which is fantastic. When you're going through chemotherapy and you need nutrition, you'd love to have the taste of food so that you can eat and rebuild health. And so what I did when I joined was to figure out a technology beyond growing these these plants that produce these sweet proteins taking it to fermentation technology, so that you can have a scalable and affordable solution. And that that was again it's sort of hit me right in the sweet spot pun fully intended of the things that I care about. Sustainability, climate, food and health all in one.

Philip Pape:

Okay, so there's a couple of things I wanted to pull the thread on in those what is bioprocess engineering and bio processing in general as a medium of sustained Billy, if you can explain that a little bit, and then I have another quick follow up after that.

Jason Ryder:

Sure. So most of the listeners are familiar with biotechnology. And that's mostly around using living cells to make bio based products on ways that are more sustainable than then then the other ways that humans have produced them a great example are biofuels and bio materials, right? Those that are produced via fermentation. And bio processing is using those living cells essentially building scalable processes around them so that you can make these materials and in our case, foods at a scale that that that is meaningful for the planet and addressing those problems. So things like large scale fermentation, everybody's familiar with brewing beer. In our case, we brew sweet proteins, and that's the bioprocess engineering that we do at Dubli. Okay,

Philip Pape:

and one of those you mentioned was miraculous, which is an amazing name from the miracle berries. And you've regained taste during chemotherapy. So the obvious question you've probably been asked before is what about the COVID, long COVID symptom where people lose taste? Does it help them that

Jason Ryder:

works for those that as well. And again, I think we're all trying to get rid of COVID Right, or trying to stick it, but it is a very useful, sweet protein for those that have been impacted.

Philip Pape:

Okay, so let's step back and talk about sweet proteins in general, let's just define them what they are. Why haven't most people myself included, heard about them and I'll tell you, I know a lot about food and, you know, I look at I think about macros and micros all the time and food selection, I have clients, we're always talking about food, but I've just, it's just a new one to me. Start high level and then feel free to dig into the science like we talked about before we started recording and then how they compare to other sweeteners would be helpful. Sure thing.

Jason Ryder:

So at high level sweet proteins are simply proteins that tastes sweet like sugar. They come mostly from plants and various around the equator. And unlike sugar and alternative sweeteners that most of your listeners are familiar with sweet proteins don't spike your blood sugar, or give you gut microbiome issues that makes them in and of themselves, a revolutionary game changer in the world of healthy sweets, going one level deeper. For for those of your listeners that want to dig into the science, proteins are relatively large biomolecules, right? They're made up of amino acids, often called the building blocks of life, but they comprise some 50% of the dry weight of your cells. Your body has a lot of proteins that are very functional. And based on that sequence of amino acids, they have a three dimensional folded structure that can take on a number of roles in your cells, catalyzing bio reactions. These are called enzymes, and even doing things like your DNA replication. To make more of you you need enzymes, you need protein, right? They're fundamental to life. Now back to sweet proteins. Sweet proteins are a subclass of mostly plant based proteins I mentioned that come from plants, berries and fruits around the equator. And their amino acid sequence and three dimensional structure make them sweet to our tons to our tastebuds what I'll call our T one, r two and two and R three taste receptors. And they're 1000s of times sweeter on a waitwait basis than sugar. Now, why would a plant make such a protein that was sweet to humans and sweeter instead of sugar? Well, plants are really good at making sugars. And they need to make sugars. Well, they make sugars by photosynthesis, right? That's their process. But they would rather turn those sugars into things like cellulose that enable them to grow more plant material for more photosynthesis, right? That's the leaves and the stems and the like. It's metabolically expensive for them to simply store sugar hoping that a human or a higher primate come along and eat them and hopes that they carry their seeds, right. And so we as humans, those mobile species and seed carriers and the early forests evolved in are wired to crave sugar for energy, right, we needed to try and gather. And we gorged on sources like fruits and berries that these plants make. And so they simply made that trade off metabolically to make a small amount of a sweet protein to trick us into eating them, as opposed to all that that sugar. And that was a dirty trick on us several 1000 years ago, when we needed that energy. But nowadays, we've cultivated sugar in a lot of forms, namely sugar cane, corn syrup, sugar beets, it's very cheap. It's recklessly abundant in our food system. And we're paying the price for it in the form of, you know, 40% pre diabetes and the US obesity rates are similar to that heart disease I could go on. It's just not natural. We weren't meant to eat that much sugar. And the cool thing about sweet proteins is they give us a path to have that sweetness, which we deserve as the people fill it but without all of that bad stuff associated with it.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, I agree. The modern food environment has skew things way off from where they were intended to be. And I personally and pretty much everybody listening to this can relate with some level of sweet tooth, right? Whether it's, you know, yeah, we've gone artificial sweeteners or stevia or something like that to continue enjoying sweet things without the deleterious effects of too much sugar, or we've gone just, you know, as much toward Whole Foods as we can, and you kind of lose that sensitivity. But there are a lot of people that are just still stuck in that, you know, cycle of, of eating the sugar. So I think it's fascinating how this was an evolutionary change in these plants to have highly dense form of sugar. So it was a more efficient storage, and it still got the same result of spreading seeds. I mean, that's pretty cool. Is is in terms of like, all the plant matter on the planet, I guess, before agriculture came along with these have comprised a decent amount of plant species, or are they just small corner niches of of the environment?

Jason Ryder:

Yes, so far, we know, there are between 10 or 20 of these species that are commonly known. And they're known because of the cultures that identify them. They're mainly in West Africa and around the equator around the world. And that's because these proteins, they don't have a long shelf life, once you pick the berries or the fruits, you got about three days to eat them before. Different enzymes inside those fruits, break them down. And so they've stayed local, the only one really didn't make it to the US in any form is the miracle berry. And it still has to be grown in the tropical area, mostly Florida and Hawaii. And so the cool thing about fermentation is we can brew these proteins in the same way that you brew beer, and you can brew beer anywhere on the planet. And that's that's game changing technology to go with the game changing proteins as you can make them and make them at a scale that's meaningful. As sugar is literally everywhere, I'd say it's 70 to 80% of the products in your grocery store have sugar in some form or another. And it's confusing for consumers because we call sugar a lot of different things at least 50 By my account, and sweet, sweet proteins give you a great alternative to that. And so that's why we're working on it.

Philip Pape:

Okay, so let's I kind of want to dispel if my audience gets too excited thinking that this is like the new base of a protein powder or something, right, we usually discuss protein in terms of it's important for building importance for building and repairing muscle increasing satiety and our diet, higher thermic effect of feeding all those and we're talking about, you know, fairly high quantities of that macronutrient in our diet. But I suspect the sweet proteins aren't necessarily consumed at that quantity. And so what is, first of all, let's, let's let's discuss whether that's true or not. And then what's the added benefit of the proteins that taste sweet? Is it mainly as a sweetener, that's what I'm getting?

Jason Ryder:

Yeah, so So I'll give you a visual example, since we're recording for, for your audience. And so I'm going to show you a bottle of an orange, fizzy beverage that has around 72 grams of sugar in it, right, which looks roughly like this 18 sugar cubes, which are around four grams each. And so when we sweetened the beverage, like our sweet iced teas, it only takes a few 10s of milligrams of sweet protein, because of the potency of the sweetness, right 1000s of times more potent than sugar. So for

Philip Pape:

the audience, it's a big jar of many, many, many cubes of sugar, versus a tiny vial of a tiny sprinkle of the sweet protein.

Jason Ryder:

Yeah, so a few 10s of milligrams isn't going to get you the protein loading if you're trying to get out and get small. There's lots of other great protein sources for that either animal or plant based depending on your sensibilities. And so what we do is functionally sweetened on that product. And so if you're having a protein shake, for example, we can give you that sweet taste that you're looking for in your chocolate or your strawberry or vanilla. But we can do that with a tiny amount of protein while you're getting the building blocks for all of that muscle from another protein, for example, like whey or pea protein.

Philip Pape:

Love it. And that's actually a great point because, again, most people listening probably have at least one if not two protein shakes a day. And because most people don't like pure unflavored whey protein, they tend to buy the kind of has flavoring which then is associated with usually a form of sweetener, whether it's sucralose or stevia or something else. So we'll get into specific products in a bit. But I do I want to talk a little bit more about this sweetening aspect of it right. We don't add sugar, we will eat fruit and things like that to satisfy your sweet tooth will use these other sweeteners in moderation. If the alternative is significantly more calories, right, because that's what we're trying to do. What's your take on added sugar and our tendency to make things sweet in general, and then artificial sweeteners? You know, because you did allude to insulin spiking. You alluded to gut microbiome and I know some of that science is sketchy and some of it is more solid plus you had the recent who announcement aspartame which is getting a lot of controversy. So what are your thoughts on all of that?

Jason Ryder:

Yeah, So let me describe for your listeners, how sweeteners and in turn sweet proteins work. And so you have a great analytical instrument in your mouth for evaluating the sweetness, right? Because we're, we're hardwired for it, we need sugar for energy, it's the great currency from which we fuel our daily life. And so we have these T one, r two and T winnaar, three tastes receptors on your tastebuds that tell your brain, hey, this is sweet, you should eat more of it. And that never stops, right. But it also we have additional taste receptors in our gut. And they do the same thing. They tell your brain ah, we see sweetness keep eating that but also it alerts your pancreas to make insulin right to ferry that sugar into the bloodstream so that you can use it to fuel your life, and so on sweet proteins work more or less the same way as sugar. And as alternative sweeteners is they bombard your taste receptor to tell you how that sweetness, the difference comes back to the chemistry that I explained before is they're made of amino acids, and they have a folded structure. And so the difference in sweet proteins is once they hit your stomach, which is an acidic environment, or low pH, as scientists tend to think of it, it unfolds and when it unfolds, it loses its activity for tripping, that that taste receptor that's in your gut, those taste receptors that are in your gut, because most of the form of sugar you get are from more complex carbohydrates, where you take those simple sugars and you connect them, you polymerize them, right. And those are, you know, things like complex sugars, multi dextran, I could go on, right. And so you need to be able to tell your body that the sugar is being broken down by enzymes, so you can vary it in your bloodstream. So the sweet proteins don't touch any of those, and so they don't spike your insulin response. That's super important, right? Because even alternative sweeteners can continue to give you that sweetness response in your GI tract continue to bombard insulin production and lead to type two diabetes. And so that's a big difference. Another big difference is your gut microbiome. Um, for those of you that eat protein, or drink lots of protein shakes, or eat high protein products that are sweetened by alternative sweeteners, you call it aspartame, stevia, you know I could go on, you might have tolerability issues, that's a polite way of saying give you gas, you are all walking, talking fermenters, as you have a number of different microbes that are in your tummy that help you break down all of the things that aren't broken down by your normal gi process. And it's a consortium there's lots of different species in there. And when they get out of balance, and they can get out of balance when they're exposed to different different chemicals they're not used to or different food sources that you're not evolved around. And that certainly happens when you have high levels of alternative sweeteners, even stevia and monk fruit. And so the cool thing about sweet proteins is they never get to the gut microbiome, your body has already unfolded them, and is breaking them down into the peptides and amino acids that you normally need to build cells and all that great cellular function I mentioned earlier.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, I think that's pretty cool. I can definitely foresee so many applications for that. Where, you know, protein bars are a big one people talk about, you know, getting bloated and whatnot, because they have the sugar alcohols, there's things like allulose, or there's always some new innovation. And they all seem to have a little bit of a disadvantage in one of those areas, depending on the quantities, you consume them. And so we talked about all right, I think that's amazing. The protein structure fold and how it unfolds when you get to your gut and because the acidic environment and then it doesn't trigger the receptor. This is the science I know we're diving a little deeper, not too deep. It's just Just what I like to hear. What about. So let's talk about the implications of this then, and maybe the food supply, the technology, the psychology of dieting, and all of that some of we alluded to the psychology of dieting. Right? We have an emotional relationship with food. How do you see your work with sweet proteins impacting that? Yeah,

Jason Ryder:

I think we shouldn't hate on ourselves or criminalized sweetness, right? It's a great thing. We associate it with all of the fun things in our lives, like birthdays, for example, birthday cakes. You know, even my kids, they are self self acclaimed. boba tea experts, right? So sweetness comes in a lot of joyful places. And I think normalizing that that's good by separating it from the negative health effects is really important to us as a human society. Because we need to have joy and we also need to have health and we very much view sweet proteins as one of the key tools and helping us reestablish that connection right. Both joy in and health can live in the same place around sweetness.

Philip Pape:

Ya know, couldn't couldn't put it better myself. We talk about sustainability in this program all Time have, you know, no foods are really off limit except maybe trans fats. No foods are off limit to some extent as long as they meet your goals and they serve what you're trying to do. So part of that is our life or lifestyle or social situations. I just today answering the question about carnivore diet and how, you know, when you restrict things too much, then you now all of a sudden you making all these other trade offs and compromises. So if we can use technology to kind of bring that back to a rational space, it's, it's all the better. So as a food technology expert, how do you see this transforming the industry? Because I know you guys I know Googly makes a few products, maybe two or three different products, is this gonna replace traditional sweeteners on a large scale, we'll be able to buy them in, you know, containers and packets in the store, will they be in protein powders and bars and everything at some point?

Jason Ryder:

Yes to that, that is my goal is of course, we're developing a few of our own products to feature our sweet proteins and also establish that relationship of trust with with consumers. I imagine a few of your listeners feel a little jerked around by the stories on, you know, sugar and alternative sweeteners. And even recently, aspartame has been linked to cancer, sucralose, a chlorinated sugar of sorts is linked to genotoxicity. This is scary. And, you know, it's hard to know what to trust. And so we're launching our own products. And we've done our own safety studies, for our consumers to try get curious about sweet proteins drink our sweet iced teas, eat our chocolates, you can go to voobly.com and find all of those, as well as a few stores here in Davis and down in LA. And I think that's a great first step in a series of products that we'd like to launch ourselves through bliss brand, but also partner with others to help rehabilitate products that you know, a lot of your listeners and consumers in general love, but are loaded with sugar. And we know how to formulate and all of those products. And we're working on a platform of these sweet proteins that can get all of them. And so that's really what I'm looking for, throughout the rest of my career with googly is to figure out how to basically go everywhere shutter is,

Philip Pape:

yeah, now that makes sense that I'm looking forward to that, you know, because I put some stevia in my coffee every day because it's, you know, quote, unquote, the making all the trade offs that I can make, it's the best option I feel like I have at the moment. But if I could take a little dropper, dollop of Euro, sweet proteins in there from the miracle barrier, wherever it comes from, that'd be great.

Jason Ryder:

We're working on it, Philip. And so the protein that you'll see and experience through your mouth, and when you buy our sweet iced teas, as well as our chocolates is called the googly fruit, sweet protein that does come from the googly fruit, which is another one of those plant species. And it's berries that grow in West Africa. And it's, it's an amazing, sweet protein gives you a really sugary sucrose taste in your mouth that you crave. And again, it's because that specific plant evolved to trick us into thinking it was sucrose. And so enjoy that. And there's there's several more on the way.

Philip Pape:

That's a good point, right? Because some of these alternative sweeteners even if they're quote unquote unnatural have after after taste or they're bitter. A lot of people don't like stevia, for example, and which is the one in the pink packet that just nobody likes. But I'm curious, so only now I see what are the name of the company comes from the food labeling house? What's that going to look like? I mean, you already know what it looks like because you have to have the FDA labels. What is it expressed as in the food label?

Jason Ryder:

Yeah, we call it ugly fruit sweet protein. As we feel that that's the most direct and honest way to talk about sweet proteins with with consumers in a way that they can grab onto. There are technical names for all of these proteins. I mentioned one, the miracle berry fruit protein is referred to as miraculous. The only fruit sweet protein is also called braising. But but not all of our, our your listeners or even our consumers are protein biochemists and I think recognizing that the proteins are natural they're identical to the ones that come out of plants they just happen to be made via fermentation it's important to know I think we all know in our hearts and heads that natural products are the best ones for us. But you know calling them something a rose by any other name, I think names pretty important. And so for us, we're going to name them by the berries that these natural proteins come from

Philip Pape:

full transparency, what is the what about the macro labeling? Does it is it designed to be shown as a sugar carb or protein? What is it?

Jason Ryder:

It doesn't show up anywhere because it doesn't break the threshold is so small Okay. Routine, right? So we believe me we struggled on that I'm a Scientists and engineer I over communicate by nature, I've probably done a lot of that here. And so we played around with our label a lot to try to figure out how to tell our consumers about our superhero proteins but but also explain why there aren't 10 grams of it, you don't need very much, you just need a couple of 10s of milligrams actually, to get that sweetness.

Philip Pape:

Again, it's kind of like salt. And when they put salt in suddenly it just says salt and there's very little of anything in it. Well, it might show sodium. But what what does so if we if we on your sweet tea, because I actually didn't look at the label yet does it have does it have any other sugars in it? Besides that? It does.

Jason Ryder:

So for example, with our lemon, peach and mango uses sweet teas, we do use fruit to make all of those. And so along with that fruit comes around five grams for our 16 ounce teas. But But again, we don't think that we don't think sugar is a bad thing. But having too much sugar is certainly been a bad thing for us. And so we have the natural fruit that comes along as well as a little bit of agave to round out. And what we're looking for with our sweet proteins is an unrecognizable reduction in sugar that doesn't give you those off. Notice that things like stevia and monk fruit and even aspartame and, and sucralose give you that you can have the sweetness and the form that you expect. And maybe not even though there's sweet proteins in there, we want you to know they're sweet proteins in there for sure. But, you know, your mouth is a very finely tuned instrument around sweetness. And so our sweet proteins along with a little bit of sugar that comes with the fruit is just the right balance for our teas and chocolates. We feel like that hope hope.

Philip Pape:

Okay, yeah, I want to try them. So we'll see I love chocolate. So that you know, it could be dangerous, but that's a that's a good thing. I love chocolate.

Unknown:

Okay, my name is Lisa. And I'd like to give big shout out to my nutrition coach Philip pape, with his coaching, I have lost 17 pounds, he helped me identify the reason that I wanted to lose weight, and it's very simple longevity. I want to be healthy, active and independent until the day I die. He introduced me to this wonderful Apple macro factor I got that part of my nutrition figured out along with that is the movement part of nutrition, there's a plan to it and really helped me with that. The other thing he helped me with was knowing that I need to get a lot of steps in. So the more steps you have, the higher your expenditure is, and the easier it is to lose weight when it's presented to you like he presents it it makes even more sense. And the other thing that he had was a hunker guide. And that really helped me so thank you below.

Philip Pape:

So you mentioned the sourcing and the types of berries they might come from and where they're located. Let's talk about the fermentation process, because I am curious about that how that comes into this.

Jason Ryder:

Sure thing. So we brew our sweet proteins much the same way you would brew beer, we use a foodsafe yeast just like you would use for brewing beer. And so we does require a little bit of sugar. But again, that sugar is upgraded. And a lot of ways given that the sweet protein is 1000s of times more potent. So it takes a lot less sugar to make or sweet proteins than you would in practice using these products. And so I mentioned on the sustainable bioprocess engineering. So all the steps that follow fermentation are simple, simply some mechanical separation filtration and drying, to make that that sweet protein ingredient that I'm holding up here. And it's great again, if you think about the sustainability aspect of what we're doing. Sugars grown about 65 million acres across the earth 65 million acres that, in many cases used to be arraigned for us, in all cases could be rainforest again, or be growing more nutritional crops, right, most of the sugar grown has to put into drinks and candy bars. And so for us, you know, every six 600 Or every 1% reduction in sugar gives us 650,000 acres back for us to do that. You know replant the rainforests so that the Earth can breathe or grow, you know, better crops to solve the world's sort of food disparities. And so I'm super excited about that. And also the fact that you don't have to ship that sugar in the places where it's grown. Brazil, for example, is a huge exporter of sugar requires a lot of fuel to get it to the ports and a lot of fuel to put it on barges to ship where it needs to go. That's carbon in our air that we don't need. And so the great thing about precision fermentation and in our case, making these sweet proteins as we can make them very close to where you use them and avoid a lot of those costs, not just the agricultural ones, but the shipping costs. Because it's again, you need a A lot less mass for sure. 1000 times less.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, people, people care more and more today as they should about how their products are made and sourced. And if there's a net, if there's a net benefit, where it's not a government, industry, government agency coming in and telling you have to do it, and it's just innovation, I mean, people typically get on board with that. What is the competitive landscape look like? Are there other companies doing the same thing? Is, is the scalability there? Or are there some still challenges in that realm?

Jason Ryder:

Sure thing, yeah, there for sure. A few other companies that are exploring sweet proteins, it's still a relatively new area for folks to commercialize. We commercialize the first one and the first products behind it, we also were the first to publish safety studies around using these as ingredients. But but they're, they're more focused on the way I'd say what differentiates us from some of the other folks that are doing this is we are manufacturing on three different continents now, which is great, building a robust supply chain, so that we can make sure we can get all of our consumers that want it. And we're also focused on natural proteins, those that are there that are present in the plants and nature, there's always an opportunity, when you're you're making proteins to, you know, to make mutant proteins, right? Molecular substitutions that give you a different sweetness profile that can give you a different flavor profile. And I'd say that might be important to consumers in the future. It's I think most folks are focused on on natural products now, and I think that's a good thing. And I'd say, you know, in the future, when that's important, and when the safety of those new proteins has been established, I'd say it's a great time.

Philip Pape:

So speaking of safety of your products, you mentioned safety studies, I'm gonna assume the that your company is funding them, maybe not? How do you ensure the independence of those studies.

Jason Ryder:

So we do all of our safety studies with third parties, okay. And we partner with the FDA, who also has a great interest and at least in the US on on consumer safety. And they're all scientists that review our data packages. And even before that, we have an expert panel of independent scientists that are even independent from the FDA that review our package. And so our first one, the ugly fruit, sweet protein, we've established what is called self grass, are generally recognized as safe for using Doobly fruit sweet protein as an ingredient to sweeten. And that was signed off on by independent scientists in nutrition and toxicology, etc. And it's a similar process at the FDA is you submit the package, you meet with them, I've met with the FDA several times to talk through that. And at the end of the process, after you've established that they progress are generally recognized as safe, the FDA gets a chance to ask questions, and once they're out of questions, they give you a note questions letter. And we have established the safety of the ugly fruit sweet protein, but a lot of the large scale, you know, stores that distribute would like to see that no questions letter to put them on on the big store shelves.

Philip Pape:

Fair enough. Fair enough. Yeah, I mean, I interests are generally aligned with these things. So I just want to ask it to the listener has some more information. Yeah. And then you're at UC Berkeley. So how does your role there contribute overlap to your work with the sweet proteins here.

Jason Ryder:

So I have a great passion for sustainability. And all forms, I tend to refer to my students as mass and energy balances hugging the Earth. My students are by and large, bioprocess engineers trying to learn how to use biotechnology and bio processing to solve problems across climate, food and health. And I hopefully make myself relevant by the work that I do in industry, keeping one foot Iblis and the other foot at UC Berkeley, to for my students, many of them are taking their last steps on their academic path before a long one in an industry where they're going to solve these problems. And so I bring my work into my classroom, not just the work that I'm doing and do bleed, but all of the work I've done beforehand. And I also bring a lot of my colleagues who are working on similar problems into the classroom. And that's a great way to build community Connect community, not just with the older folks like me, that are out doing it at a more advanced stage of life, but also making sure we're growing and developing the young ones who will continue to work on these problems many many decades into the future. So for those my students that are listening to this Go Bears

Philip Pape:

Yeah, no, I think it's great when you're combining industry and and university. A lot of the folks in the fitness and nutrition space that I really admire and follow are the other ones who specifically look for studies that can involve all subjects doing real things that we all want to learn from and do and then kind of bridge the science to say, you know, the bro science is right or it's not. But so extending that to what you do are other studies where you work with, I don't know, nutrition scientists, nutritionists, people that deal with either, you know, weight loss, physique, anything like that in the health and body realm or obesity, you know? Yeah, tell me about that.

Jason Ryder:

We're interested in all of those things. And so I mentioned UC Berkeley, where I also teach but the company who Billy is right next to UC Davis, which has a hospital as well as many of those experts that are working in the field of nutrition, and health. And so we have a number of studies that are ongoing to evaluate the impact, if any, of you know sweet proteins as you replace sugar and alternative sweeteners, so that we can publish that data for all to see, I think that's an important currency for us, as a society to have objective truth and science to make sure that when we are bringing, for example, new ingredients to market, of course, we have a process from which to establish that they're safe. That's the Grasp process I mentioned before. But it's not all encompassing. It doesn't touch on other things, right. That you just mentioned, overall impacts on health, and more importantly, what changes when you replace something like, you know, an alternative sweetener or, or sugar with a sweet protein. So we're interested in all of this.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, I am as well, there's even in the established sweetener and artificial sweetener realm, as we know, being studied for decades, there's still confounding data when you try to interpret what happens, for example, when we talk about diet soda, and obesity, that the idea that you know, replacing sugar beverages with unsweetened actually helps obesity and then others will argue that, well, no, it triggers you know, appetite, and then it goes against it. And then others will say, well, it's people who are trying to lose weight are the ones drinking the more diet soda. So you tend to confound the variables. It'd be interesting at some point to see if these affect things like that, like if you have googly sweetener, and only that kind of sweetener in a in a food, would it then because it doesn't spike insulin? Would it then that have the same effect on your appetite? Right things like that. I don't know if any of those questions sounds like haven't really been answered yet. Because your focus is on safety and going to market? Is that fair to say?

Jason Ryder:

Yeah, I'd say, you know, it's easy to assume that they don't. But I'd say it's really important to validate that it's not true. And what I'd also say if for any of your listeners that, you know, would like to collaborate or partner on this, we think this is important to the whole world. Me and my partner, Ally Wang, are here to bend the Global Health curve on things like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and we can't do that alone, right, we're certainly going to try with our products, and I mentioned partnering with others. But this is a systems level solution to climate, food and health, we'll need a lot of folks and all of the different, you know, their respective expertise and experience to help us and we're learning all the time. I'm a lifelong learning AI. And I'd really like to learn everything there is to know about these sweet proteins. So if you're out there and would like to collaborate, drop me a line,

Philip Pape:

there we go, there we go. I could probably throw you 10 or 15, names on top, my head two that are just very respectable scientists in different realms of health and nutrition that I'm sure it'd be interested in, this will fill

Jason Ryder:

and we can make this sweet protein, we make a lot of it. And that was important in the early days from which to formulate products and still is, but we now have sufficient quantities to launch products, and also do all of the studies, we're interested to do what I think the only thing I struggle with is his time and bandwidth, right? But I find it, there's anybody out there, I will find the bandwidth and the time.

Philip Pape:

And I'm certainly willing, it is very exciting. I mean, anything new, like this is exciting when especially when it's from a plant, which has just been on the earth for millions of years. And you're like, well, we can do something new with it. Which makes you wonder, always wonder what else is out there? What are the criticisms or skepticisms? Let's just, you know, cover the other side here that you hear about sweet proteins.

Jason Ryder:

Yeah, most people don't know they even exist, and they've never had them. And I think we have a natural fear of the unknown, which, in my experience, education is a great assault for and so a lot of what we're doing in Dubli is getting the good word out about sweet proteins. Hey, if you hadn't had them before, try them. We've had many different events and programs that enable folks to get discounts and in some cases, even free chocolates to try them and we put a lot on our website, we've been participating in a lot of great media forums, like your podcast to get the word out and also published our safety studies so that all can read. So we're going to continue to do that education in all forms, establishing that relationship with trust with with our consumers, as as we all learn more about sweet proteins and all of the great places, and our food and beverage system than it can replace sugar. I think on the opposite side, we know a lot about sugar. The more we learn, the more it validates, you know what, what we know that it's not good for us in excess. And I'd say we're learning a lot more about the alternative sweeteners. None of it is good. And so consumers much like you mentioned with stevia, as they're looking for an alternative. You're making trade offs to do it often on taste, and my joy and making sweet proteins as you don't have to have that trade off. This is revolutionary. It's really a game changer. So I'm excited for you all to try it.

Philip Pape:

Pretty cool. Yeah, me? Yeah, me too, for sure. So you since you are so excited, I could I could sense it. I mean, what, what's your vision for the future here? You know, I mean, you've sort of alluded to it, of the research of getting the product into more hands and more products. Is there anything else we didn't cover that that excites you about the future?

Jason Ryder:

No, I get excited every time I walk into a grocery store, and I look at a product that I hadn't thought about. And there aren't very many left to be honest. But but it gets me excited about the next five or 10 years when we can get products and all of those areas that people love and enjoy sweetness from. And I you know, the way I would like to see that manifest is and true drops and the the growth rate first for obesity, diabetes and heart disease. And then the direct correlation, I would love to be part of the studies that demonstrate it was OOB Lee's suite proteins and the revolution that we created that started the bend on that curve and started bending it in the opposite direction. So that's, that's what I'm excited about in the future.

Philip Pape:

What would you say is one or two of the products that would have massive impact? I can think of one and I think it's diet soda personally, if that's a possibility. And I would love to hear how you would incorporating that, because that's one, one of my vices. And I have no problem saying that because the alternative would be other things and probably have a lot more calories. So yeah, well, what are those products,

Jason Ryder:

for sure. And I think you hit on that one, because 40% of the sugar we consume comes in the form of beverages, many of them are fizzy, like that soda. And so the cool thing, as I mentioned, this bottle of orange soda that I start showed you earlier in the 18 sugar cubes that go in the only function that the sugar cubes do with this bottle of soda is sweeten it. And so that's a great product for us to formulate around regardless of whether or not it's, it's, it's a tea, which is one of the beverages that we're selling now, or a fizzy one, which we plan to sell in the future. And so that gives us coverage of 40. And some would even guess as high as 50% of sugary products and, and they're they're essentially drop in replacements. So that's great when you can make it easy. In other cases, like chocolates, right, that's our other product, it's a little more difficult because sugar makes up by bulk 50% of the chocolate bar. And so when you replace when you remove all that sugar, and replace it with sweet protein, you can give somebody half of the size of the chocolate bar there, that's immediately going to give them a ho hum effect, right and so or you can replace it with something better. And so in our case, we've replaced it with fiber, which is something that's come out of our diet with Ultra processed foods is we just don't eat enough fiber. net net. And so rebuilding products with more healthy ingredients, natural ingredients that people can pronounce the names of without PhDs is also a passion of mine. Again, I appreciate it. I'm you know, I'm doing science at the cutting edge. And I also teach it at UC Berkeley, but I'm still an Alabama kid at heart and trying to solve problems for everybody. Right. And certainly the problems that we're seeing across climate, food and health are touching everybody.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, yeah, I think that no doubt would be a massive impact. I mean, if you go into the grocery store and just go down the aisles, everything is sugar, just everything. I mean, pretty much you can randomly stick your hand out unless it's you know, in the canned goods or something that's gonna have sugar. You mentioned fibers that will kind of fibers added to those.

Jason Ryder:

So we work with a couple of different fibers like Acacia fiber is one of those chicory root fibers is another. There's several What are widely viewed as healthy fibers, plant based fiber As of course, all fibers is plant based, but but can be good for you and help you either as a prebiotic, or just a healthy addition to a product replacing what we're used to what the diet we evolved around and have removed because of, you know, the the advent of ultra processed foods.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, I wanted to ask us some some of the cheaper products, we'll just use the corn fiber. So I was curious about that.

Jason Ryder:

I didn't know, fiber and maltodextrin. In general, we view those as a backdoor to diabetes. And so you do have the enzymes in your GI tract that can break down much of that soluble fiber and corn and make simple sugars, which take you right back to spiking your blood insulin, or your blood sugar level and your insulin and type two diabetes, and so on the types of fiber that we select for, and our products don't have that capability, as we really are working for those folks that want to get their sugar under control, without giving up taste.

Philip Pape:

It's always an interesting topic, right? Because I know you don't listen to the show religiously. But I definitely touch on carbs a lot. And in the beauty of carbs and the benefit of carbs, and you know, everything from whole grains to starches to vegetables and fruits for energy recovery performance. And even for, you know, when you have a healthy lifestyle, and you build insulin sensitivity, it's good to have the carbs. Sometimes you want to spike your insulin when you have to work out, for example, to draw circles on you have muscle mass, but what we're talking about here is the mass of humanity that unfortunately consumes like 50 to 60% processed foods. And if you're not going to necessarily change it at the root. You can like chicory root, just getting change at the root then at least changed the available options in the environment, right, because the Western food environment is a big obesogenic factor that you know, you can you can blame people for their choices. But the it's out there, you know what I mean? It's very hard to get away from it.

Jason Ryder:

Yeah, and I do. I have listened to a couple of your podcasts, particularly the misconceptions on protein, because I'm a huge protein lover. And, and building muscle over 40, I think was was the title of it. And I let your listeners guess which side of the 40 I'm on. But I think it's important and not to demonize carbohydrates. Right, I think what you're telling your listeners is, you're a chemical engineer, right? As you're solving mass and energy balances around people, much like I'm trying to solve them around the planet. And that that, you know, make sure that in minus out, you know, equals accumulation or loss and you want that at steady state, right is how we got ourselves into this situation with diabetes and obesity and heart disease is by eating far too much of one type of carbohydrate, that sugar. And we did it because it's recklessly abundant and cheap. And I'd say it's an opportunity for us to take a step back and look at not just what we're eating, but what other folks are making and selling to us and saying we want something different, right? We don't want to compromise on taste, or health. And we need foods that respect both of those things. And so I think that's largely what you're speaking to is going back to a diet that matches our lifestyle, certain from certainly from how much energy we're consuming, as well as the types of the carbohydrates that we're consuming, that they match our needs of our body that we evolved around. And don't put us in a position where our mass and energy balance gets out of whack.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, for sure. And the choices out there should be as abundant as possible. So that when we make those choices for our lifestyle, we can still be sustainable. We could still have our our social time and still make baked goods and birthday cakes and all of that because again, I you know, I will tell people look if you if doughnuts are non negotiable. Enjoy your doughnut, let's just fit it in. But if you can have a doughnut made with a little bit better ingredients that just nudges us more in that healthier direction,

Jason Ryder:

though, I like the way you think and I like your ideas. I think I just got a new one.

Philip Pape:

Do you want to share it or is this?

Jason Ryder:

You mentioned doughnuts. Doughnuts are also a big thing for where I come from two. So hurry to work on after this podcast.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, I mean, you still have the fried dough part of it. But you know, we can at least get the frosting and

Jason Ryder:

all good things in moderation, right? I can certainly help you with the sugar and the sweetness part of the donut.

Philip Pape:

Sounds good. Okay, so I like to ask this of all guests. And that is what one question Did you wish I had asked and what is your answer?

Jason Ryder:

What one question that I wish you had asked. I think it was more around the sustainability. But But I sort of seated my own answer there as most folks don't connect sweet proteins. With sustainability. It's the problems on health and food are the obvious ones. But But sustainability is not Yes, and I'd love to leave your listeners with some of what I've seen in my life. I spent a lot of time in Brazil earlier in my career, building bioprocess facilities that use that sugar to make bio based products. And there's a lot of sugarcane in Brazil and a lot of the tropical areas of the planet. And it's, it's a terrible crop for us to be growing from an environmental perspective. And so, I'd love for folks to think about sugar reduction, not just in terms of their own bodies and their health, and our food system, but also in terms of our global climate. And, yeah, that's, that's the question you didn't ask, but I think I answered a couple of times anyway.

Philip Pape:

No, I appreciate ya know, for sure I was focused more on the health side, but that is that is going to be valuable because when you hear stories about the rainforests and deforestation things like at the end of the day, it's it's it affects all of us at some level, the wildfires and all that no matter what, what side of politics you are, there's, you know, a very strong, factual part of all this, we need to be aware of

Jason Ryder:

that it's like all things if you don't get a chance to see it on a daily basis, that might be easy for you not to think about it. And so I'm encouraging folks to think about it, as all of your choices have implications. And we as a human society, can make better ones together and solve this whole system of problems we're facing across climate, food and health. I often don't refer to these as challenges or problems to my students, I only use the word opportunity because they're at that early stage in life and they're they're you know, all ready to get out and tackle all of these these opportunities and I say get after it.

Philip Pape:

For sure. I'm gonna call my friend Alan when he says the obstacles the way right there

Jason Ryder:

you go. Alright, so Phillip thank you for that.

Philip Pape:

So where can listeners Jason find out more about you your work Uli any, any discount any study whatever you want to send them, I can throw all those links in the show notes.

Jason Ryder:

Yes, please do visit our website www.weebly.com. That's Iblis spelled o bli. And you can buy our sweet iced teas, both our rather our peach, our lemon and our mango, yuzu, as well as our chocolates, dark chocolates. For now we do have milk chocolates on the way that are dark chocolates or silky cacao. We also have sea salt and raspberry bits. And so try them. And please share your feedback. Feedback is a gift. Certainly the supportive but also corrective. I'd love to hear how you feel about our products and our sweet proteins in general, as we're making them for you. So I'd love to hear from you.

Philip Pape:

Absolutely. So ui.com sweet iced tea, dark chocolate. That's my favorite kind. So I'm going to try those out. Jason is a pleasure to have you on um, you know, I learned a lot I'm sure the listener did. I'm looking forward to more of the sweet proteins in our in our food supply.

Jason Ryder:

Wonderful. Well, I appreciate the time and the ability to go a bit deeper on sweet proteins with your listeners. And I look forward to coming back and telling you more in the future.

Philip Pape:

Sounds good. Jason, thanks so much for coming on. Thanks. So thank you for tuning in to another episode of Wits & Weights. If you found value in today's episode, and know someone else who's looking to level up their Wits & Weights. Please take a moment to share this episode with them. And make sure to hit the Follow button in your podcast platform right now to catch the next episode. Until then, stay strong.

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