According to Jewel Coffee Chairman and CEO Adrian Khong, the driving force behind creating Zerup was twofold – simplicity in application and meeting the escalating demand for sugar alternatives.
“While most patrons opted for low or no sugar, there remains an undeniable craving for sweetness. Zerup satisfies that by offering the desired sweet taste without sugar, aligning seamlessly with the prevailing health-conscious trends,” Khong told FoodNavigator Asia.
In Asia, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, and The Philippines had already implemented sugar tax. In Singapore, compulsory Nutri-Grade mark was introduced in all pre-packaged and freshly prepared beverages between 2022 and 2023.
“Governments worldwide recognises the obesity and diabetes crisis, having new tax and policies in place exemplify the shift. So, Zerup is not only responding to these regulatory changes but helping other businesses in their efforts to reduce sugar consumption.”
Pioneering liquid sweetener
Zerup is strategically marketed as zero-sugar, zero-calorie, and it is in liquid form.
“Sweeteners mostly come in powered form. But you can’t expect beverage makers to readily mix the powered sweetener with water because that will give rise to inconsistencies, ultimately affecting the taste of the beverage. By making liquid sweetener, it adds viscosity. Zerup can be dispenser from the bottle like any kind of syrup.”
Zerup is currently available in ten flavours. From vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut that are commonly used in coffee making, to mango, white peach, passionfruit, lychee, and others that are found mostly in bubble teas. All available in a one-litre bottle and sold at a retail price of SGD$15.90 on major E-commerce platforms and FairPrice supermarkets.
“Since using Zerup exclusively ensures a Nutri-Grade A, we have received a lot of interests that extend beyond Singapore. We have liaised with distributors in Malaysia, Thailand, and New Zealand, who are expressing eagerness to introduce Zerup. We are also in touch with a US carbonation beverage maker brand to devise more flavours that cater to their customers.”
By 2024, Zerup is expected to launch another 18 to 24 flavours including Cola, lemon-lime, ginger-ale, orange, grapes and more. At the same time, Zerup also plans to expand into a functional range of liquid sweeteners that can be blend with collagen, probiotics, protein, vitamins, and other supplements.
Science behind the sweetness
According to Khong, Zerup is a unique combination of Acesulfame Potassium (AceK) and sucralose.
“AceK provides rapid sweetness perception, complemented by sucralose’s lingering sweetness. Together, they create a superior sweetness profile compared to other single sweetener products. Moreover, Zerup is versatile. It be added to drinks, oats, and plain yogurt. At 7 calories per mililitre, one pump of concentrated Zerup (10 mililitre) amounts to less than 1 calorie, and even less when it has been diluted.”
Khong disclosed it has taken the team 18 months of non-stop effort, since November 2021, to formulate Zerup.
“The hardest part is getting the first Zerup out. I remember how the balance of flavour and texture were disrupted when we initially sought to decrease Zerup’s acidity. It was a disheartening moment because we needed to start all over to craft an improved formulation.”
Zerup will continue its refinement over the next year. It also has plans to develop sticky versions to meet the unique needs of dessert markets.
“2024 will be an exciting year for us. We are expected to be halal-certified in the next three months. That will facilitate our penetrations into the Malaysia, Indonesia, and Middle East markets. A local pub chain has also agreed to use Zerup in their new alcoholic beverage, hoping to appeal to younger crowds. Likewise, the Chinese market, which is equally enthusiastic and suggested us to devise a pistachio flavour for their local consumer base. I’d say, we have done a lot but there’s still a lot to be done with the ever-growing opportunities.”