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Indian company to produce zero-calorie sugar in Wallonia

06:09 24/04/2019

An Indian sugar manufacturer is investing €150 million in the industrial zone of Seneffe in Hainaut, as well as setting up a local headquarters at the location. Petiva Europe SA was established in May 2018 as a first stage of the investment, with a pilot plant being built within the year.

An industrial plant is also to be installed in 2020 to demonstrate industrial feasibility. The investments should eventually create an estimated 75 jobs in Wallonia. Petiva specialises in producing zero-calorie, natural sugars. The company’s main activity in Wallonia will be producing honeytose – the trade name of allulose, a zero-calorie rare sugar.

Rare sugars have properties superior to those of natural sugars, with a low glycaemic index as well as antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Petiva will also produce nectarose and caneose – the trade names for trehalulose and isomaltulose respectively – sugars that are processed by the body more slowly.

While allulose is already produced in small quantities by other companies, Petiva has pioneered an efficient production method that is significantly less costly, estimated at or below €10 per kilogram – the outcome of 16 years of research involving about 120 people. The pilot project in Wallonia will be an opportunity to develop the technology, present the product to B2B customers and demonstrate the continuous production of about 300kg a day.

The project is already drawing interest from local industries, including chocolate and biscuit producers. “In our diet, we consume twice as much sugar as recommended by the WHO,  resulting in a phenomenal cost to our health and our health services,” says Dr Marc Noël, senior sustainable development expert at Awex, Wallonia’s export agency. “Petiva uses table sugar and transforms it into something healthy, just like nature does.”

This investment comes as a result of an agreement signed by Wallonia's minister-president Willy Borsus with Petiva to produce rare sugars in the region. Petiva had an initial interest in investing in the US, but was drawn to Wallonia because of local support, a highly skilled workforce that could provide the level of expertise required, and a more promising market with fewer competitors.

“Belgium is one of the best regions in the world for sugar production,” says Noël. “We can provide very high-quality feedstock at a competitive price, we have an established expertise in biotech, our R&D environment is excellent and we can support ambitious projects in our region.”

There are significant investments coming from India, according to Joachim Galand, Awex project coordinator specialising in the Indian subcontinent. “Most of the investments are in heavy machinery and biotech, but we expect more interest from the agri-food sector within the next two or three years.” If Petiva’s first efforts in Wallonia are successful, a commercial-sized factory is planned for 2024-26.

This article was first published in the Wab magazine, autumn 2018

Written by Betina Kiefer