Set up in 2006 under the sixth EU framework program, the LowJuice project brought together ten companies, four research institutes, and three industrial organisations to develop a process capable of reducing the calorie content of apple juice by 50 per cent without compromising on taste.
This was seen as a way of improving the competitive position of European apple juice producers and processers under threat from cheap imports from China and little opportunity for branding and differentiation.
After four years of work, a prototype juice has been developed that contains half the calories of normal juice and four to six times more fibre.
Project spokesperson Sveinung Grimsby said the research team had to use the right blend of apples to make these changes – this saw the researchers using apples from Norway, Denmark and Greece in the prototype.
But more important still was the new process created to turn the apples into a finished drink that would be acceptable to consumers.
Grimsby could not reveal details of the process but said the prototype is an entirely new product, produced in an entirely new way. Juice manufacturer Lerum has applied for patents for the process and is applying for novel food status. Under EU law, novel foods are defined as those which have not been consumed to any significant degree in the EU before May 1997.
At this stage Grimsby said Lerum and its partners have not decided whether to use their research to create a health ingredient or an apple juice/ juice drink. Because of the new process, he added that it may not be possible to call the finished product an apple juice.
Still with a lot of regulatory and commercial development work to be done, Grimsby said a new product should hit the market in two to three years.