Snacks and confectionery maker Hershey has joined US sugars supplier ASR Group to co-lead an investment in Bonumose, a start-up manufacturing lower-calorie sweeteners.

The size of the Series B financing round was not disclosed, with ingredients business ASR investing via its subsidiary American Sugar Refining. ASR is owned by Florida-based cane sugar producers Florida Crystals Corp. and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. 

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Bonumose, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, has developed and patented a production process for high-purity rare sugars, including tagatose and allulose, from low-cost, plant-based starches. “These products have fewer calories than traditional sugars and a negligible glycemic index impact,” it says. 

The company was co-founded by Dr. Daniel Wichelecki, its chief scientific officer, and CEO Ed Rogers. It has patents in the US, Japan, South Korea, Europe, Mexico and China. Bonumose will use the funds for commercial development and R&D.

“We admire Hershey’s long-standing legacy and commitment to innovation and appreciate their support in helping Bonumose achieve our mission of making delicious, plant-based sugar alternatives affordable for more consumers,” Rogers said in a statement.

Chuck Raup, the president of Hershey’s US operations, added: “Hershey remains committed to giving consumers a broad portfolio that offers the choices they seek to meet their many snacking needs. In response and as part of our strategic vision, we’re making strategic investments, both internally and externally, and have a focused plan that allows us to make reduced and zero-sugar chocolate that still has the same amazing taste consumers know and love.”

Bonumose says tagatose and allulose "taste closer to sugar than any other alternative".

It explained: "These sugar alternatives also offer the texture and mouthfeel similar to the functional properties of sugar, without the need to add fillers such as maltodextrin or dextrose. Tagatose and allulose perform well across a variety of categories, including confectionery, frozen desserts, beverages, dried fruit, dairy, baked goods, condiments, ready-to-eat cereal and keto-friendly protein bars. Tagatose and allulose have been well known by the global food industry, but historical cost structures have limited the widespread application of these rare sugars."

ASR will be Bonumose's distributor for food, dietary supplements, personal care and pharmaceutical customers in the US, Mexico, Canada, the UK, Ireland and "much of mainland Europe".

Rob Sproull, ASR's senior vice president for sales, marketing and product development, said. "Sugar sets a high bar in terms of taste, functionality and cost, and most sugar alternatives fall short. Our investment in Bonumose expands our portfolio to provide customers with sugar alternatives that offer full flavour, closely-matching functionality across multiple food and beverage applications, and at a lower cost than other alternatives."