Imagine eating chocolate that didn’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
Israeli startup SOLVEAT says it can offer just that, with its edible blend of herbal extracts that can be used in chocolate and other foods to support healthy blood sugar levels.
SOLVEAT’s clinical team observed that the chocolate that includes the startup’s formula had significant clinical efficacy in controlling blood sugar levels.
They found that the infused chocolate actually lowered blood sugar levels by 10 to 24 percent in almost all test participants with prediabetes (when blood sugar levels were higher than normal but not high enough to signify type 2 diabetes).
The startup says that its aim is to deliver the benefits of traditional herbal remedies by adding them to everyday foods without having to actually taste the herbs.
“A major problem with herbal medicine is its taste, which, let’s say, is unpleasant,” Dr. Zakhar Nudelman, co-founder and Chief Business Officer of SOLVEAT, tells NoCamels.
Apart from the need to mask their flavors, companies producing herbal-infused foods also face the challenge of ensuring that the quality and benefits of the extracts do not wane.
Nudelman says that not many of these companies have conducted clinical trials of their products to verify whether the herbs’ benefits remain after being infused into foods and supplements. This, he explains, is why SOLVEAT is planning to launch a larger clinical study of its formula with a leading Israeli healthcare institution.
According to Nudelman, SOLVEAT has a holistic solution to issues of taste and quality maintenance.
First, it uses a smart analytics platform to determine whether each herb that it imports (mainly from China) contains the active ingredients it needs for its formula.
The startup then uses proprietary methods to extract the highest amount of active ingredients from each individual herb, before blending measured amounts of each to create its patent-pending formula. Once the blending stage is completed, it analyzes the final formula again to ensure that the quality of each ingredient was not compromised during the combining process.
“This is how we control the quality of the composition, and ensure that it is reproducible,” Nudelman explains.
Making Foods Functional
SOLVEAT then turns the herbal extracts into a powder using an existing, advanced method of food processing known as microencapsulation. This extract encases in miniscule capsules the size of 15-20 microns (each micron is one thousandth of a millimeter).
This not only disguises the flavor of the herbs, but also maintains the shelf life of the product and guarantees that the contents of each final product are consistent, explains Nudelman.
“We want to make it very easy for food manufacturers to integrate [the blend] into their products,” he explains, pointing out that companies tend to drop a product that creates issues with integration.
The first blend, which is now patent-pending after the team proved its efficacy, is made from eight different herbs, including goldthread (Coptis chinensis) and Chinese foxglove (Rehmannia glutinosa). Nudelman won’t disclose the rest, but says each is essential to the success of the formula.
“We’ve seen from our pharmacological screenings that combining any four of these herbs, for example, is not effective. It only works when we combine all eight together,” he says.
Foodtech is a growing industry that was worth $247 billion worldwide in 2022. Israel in particular has a booming foodtech sector, ranking second in the world in terms of investment.
One element of this sector is the functional foods market, where food is fortified with herbal or plant extracts or other vitamins, minerals and probiotics, which is valued at $186 million in 2023.
Among the companies entering this market is global food giant Nestlé, which in 2020 signed a partnership with French biotech company Valbiotis on a product containing a plant extract that aims to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Other Israeli startups are also incorporating functional ingredients into their products, such as Yofix, which develops plant-based prebiotic and probiotic dairy alternatives.
Nudelman says that the difference between SOLVEAT and these companies is that it alone creates herbal compositions. He says the use of multiple herbs together “is more holistic” as the different active ingredients are beneficial for different organs in the body.
“There’s synergy between the herbs, so we believe it is more effective and safer,” he says.
Beyond that, he says that unlike its competitors, SOLVEAT makes compositions that are “plug and play” – so that food manufacturers only need to minimally tweak their formula before incorporating it into their products.
“Today there are many companies selling probiotic products like yogurts, but many of them do not conduct clinical trials on their products to prove their benefits,” says Nudelman. In this industry, he says, companies producing functional foods tend to make a lot of theoretical claims.
Udi Peretz, CEO and co-founder of SOLVEAT, was managing an herbal biotech company in China when he was diagnosed with prediabetes. He was advised by his local partners, professor of Chinese medicine Xia Long and herbalist professor He Yuxin to take herbal medicine, and while this method brought his condition under control, he found the herbs to be extremely bitter and too much work to prepare.
So in 2019, he founded the startup along with Nudelman and Chinese medicine practitioner Tal Naveh, determined to mask the taste of the herbs but keep their health benefits. The company’s team today also includes Long and Yuxin, and Executive Chairwoman Ilanit Kabessa Cohen.
It took them 18 months to develop the technological platform and integrate the first formula. “In the beginning, the taste was terrible,” admits Nudelman. “But today we have completely overcome this challenge.”
Since then, the company has been awarded $1 million from the Israel Innovation Authority and the Trendlines Group of accelerators in Israel’s Galilee region, where SOLVEAT is based.
SOLVEAT has thus far partnered with Israeli chocolatier Ornat, which infuses its herbal powder into its chocolates. It expects to launch a pilot to sell the chocolates in the coming months.
The startup has also recently started to develop a new formula, which Nudelman says will boost the immune system through a combination of different herbs and fungi.
“We want to combine the experience of eating tasty food with receiving health benefits from these ingredients,” says Nudelman.