Climate Confident

Sweet Proteins: A Game-Changer for Climate and Health

April 12, 2023 Tom Raftery / Ali Wing Season 1 Episode 116
Climate Confident
Sweet Proteins: A Game-Changer for Climate and Health
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Show Notes Transcript

Hey Climate Confident listeners, in this fascinating episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ali Wing, CEO of Oobli, about the incredible potential of sweet proteins to revolutionize our diets while reducing the climate impact of our food choices.

During our conversation, we delved into how Oobli is harnessing the power of precision fermentation to create sugar alternatives that are zero-calorie, perfect for diabetics, and boast a much smaller environmental footprint than traditional sugar production. Ali shares insights into the rigorous R&D process behind Oobli's first-generation products, and how they're working to bring their innovations to markets around the world.

We also touched on the broader climate benefits of sweet proteins, from reducing emissions in the food industry to promoting more sustainable food choices. Ali gave us a sneak peek into Oobli's upcoming product releases, including their fruity sweet teas – a category with immense potential for reducing sugar consumption and addressing global health challenges like obesity and diabetes.

Finally, Ali shared her thoughts on the burgeoning food tech space, and how companies like Oobli are contributing to a cleaner, healthier, and more climate-resilient future. If you're curious about the world of sweet proteins, how they can transform our food system, and their role in mitigating climate change, you won't want to miss this episode!

Remember to check out Oobli's website at oobli.com, and sign up to stay in the know about their latest product releases, partner collaborations, and global expansion. For those eager to learn more about sweet proteins, make sure to visit their blog for a comprehensive Sweet Proteins 101 overview.

Thanks for listening, (or watching, if you checked out this episode on YouTube) and as always, stay Climate Confident!

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Thanks for listening, and remember, stay healthy, stay safe, stay sane!

Ali Wing:

The biggest challenge that our sort of cousins in, meat and dairy have, and I'm a huge advocate of all of them, particularly from a climate point of view, is you still don't have consumers adopting at a fast enough rate. Whereas in sugar and sugar alternatives, you have consumers looking every which way up, down, and sideways just maybe being unsuccessful with it. So that's what we're particularly excited about is we have some of the same proposition, but maybe consumer demand is already there

Tom Raftery:

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Climate Confident podcast. The number one podcast, showcasing best practices in climate emission, reductions and removals. And I'm your host, Tom Raftery. Don't forget to click follow on this podcast in your podcast app of choice, to be sure you don't miss any episodes. Hi everyone. And welcome to episode 116 of the Climate Confident podcast. Yes, I'm back after that short break. My name is Tom Raftery. And before we kick off, I want to take a quick moment to express my sincere gratitude to all of this podcast's amazing supporters. Your support has been instrumental in keeping the podcast going, and I'm truly grateful for each and every one of you. If you're not already supporter, I'd like to encourage you to consider joining our community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about climate. Supporting this podcast is easy and affordable with options starting as low as just three euros or dollars, that's less than the cost of a cup of coffee and your support will make a huge difference in keeping the show going strong. To become a supporter, simply click on the support link in the show notes of this or any episode, or visit tiny url.com/climate pod. Now without further ado, with me on the show today, I have my special guest Ali. Ali, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Ali Wing:

Thank you. I'm happy to be here. My name's Ali Wing, and I'm the CEO of Oobli.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, fantastic. For people who might be unaware, Ali, what is Oobli?

Ali Wing:

Oobli is a precision fermentation technology company, but really the heart of what we do is make great consumer products using sweet proteins that can rehabilitate the way sugar exists in our food and our diets today.

Tom Raftery:

What's a sweet protein?

Ali Wing:

A sweet protein is is a protein that has been found in berries and plants in places like West Africa and Southeast Asia. We, well, scientists believe it probably evolved with humans. And what we know about them, which is really exciting for our diet, is that they evolved to basically trick our taste buds into thinking that they're sugar. They only work on large primates, so apes, gorillas, and humans. And they, the, we taste it much like we experience sugar, but the moment that we swallow it, then it moves through our body like any other protein does, which is very different than any sugar or sugar alternative. And most importantly, the difference is it doesn't have a glycemic interaction, so it doesn't raise our blood sugar levels and it doesn't have a gut microbiome effect. Both of which are sort of the chief culprits today of what we're trying to solve in a modern diet that has too much sugar in it.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. Fascinating. How did you come across these sweet proteins and what made you decide to set up a company to, you know, make them and introduce them in foodstuffs?

Ali Wing:

Well, I'd love to take credit for finding them, but some great scientists about 20 years ago started this discovery, right? And there's been about two decades of academic research and awareness of sweet proteins. Today we know there's about 20 plants that have sweet proteins in them. Um, we're pretty sure we just don't know all of them that are out there, right? Mm-hmm. So this is just an early part of discovery. And about seven years ago, my co-founder, and, my partner, my C T O, Jason Rider, joined a group that was looking at some of the first production applications of one of the first sweet proteins. And actually the original research came outta cancer research. Um, specifically. Some of the sweet proteins are actually taste modifiers or they actually make changes in your taste. That's not the ones we're commercializing, but that's where the research started. And some of the early research was about helping people with ageusia who have lost their taste. And actually sweet proteins can play a role there. It's one of the applications down the road that we're pretty excited about. Um, we don't think it's probably the first best consumer products place to start, but that's how it started. The gift and sort of why are we here today and why it is now the moment for Sweet Proteins in our diet is that you've probably heard of things like CRISPR and what's going on in synbio and what's happening with food tech. Really we've been doing fermentation for centuries, right? That's how we make beer and wine and cheese. But until we had some of the tools that have come along with what we're now calling in modern terms, um, precision fermentation, uh, we couldn't necessarily take the DNA from a plant and use yeast in a fermentation broth to, to teach it how to produce it. And that's exactly what we can do now. And, and that's super important when it comes to sweet proteins because sweet proteins, grew out of a plant's necessity to survive. And so they, they produce just one tiny little protein in each plant. So they would be an agricultural disaster to try to grow, let alone grow, to produce a lot of them. And when you think of sort of the world's sustainability problems that we're all trying to solve. These beautiful fruits and berries grow in precious ecosystems that we do not need to take more from. So this is sort of why I think we're kind of the perfect marriage of the best of nature and the best of technology. It's a plant, and a DNA, and a protein, that is exactly from nature. And what, what we put in any products at the end of our fermentation brewing is exactly what you can find in nature. But the only real way to make it accessible and produce it as a solution in our diets is to use fermentation. And that's what we do today.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And, uh, why, why did you guys set it up? Why, what, what was, what was the, the, the genesis of setting up this company to create these sweet proteins?

Ali Wing:

Well, the first generation, which predates me, um, was to look at, cancer applications where people had had lost their ability to taste. Mm-hmm. What we quickly realized in that there are interesting applications, but there's only a couple of these sweet proteins that actually sort of change taste. Like this particular protein that started this research is called is from the miracle berry and it's called miraculin the protein, and it actually changes sour to sweet. Right? So it's a unique protein. That discovery led to going past the academic on all the proteins and actually producing enough to start to test and we realised oh my goodness. Most of these proteins are just sweetness, and they're very good at tricking human brain to thinking they're sugar. So they could be a solution for, you know, I don't have to tell you, Tom, we're all living in this modern day today. I don't know a person that isn't trying to reduce sugar in their diet. But habits are hard to break. Yeah. And we've all modernized with this diet, so we're all working on changing those habits. And we came together, that's when I joined and said, wow, there's an unlock here to really potentially bring a game-changing sort of health solution that gives us the sweetness we want, and on top of it does it in a sustainable way. And that was the genesis of why we came together to actually see if we could bring commercial products that could make that kind of change.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And you're saying sweet proteins, plural. How many of them are there? How many of them are commercially viable? Do they have different applications? You know, talk to me a little bit about that.

Ali Wing:

Yeah, it's a great question. We know that there's about 20 so far the science world knows. We are currently actively, and when I say active on our platform, we mean we're doing research, we're scaling them up at some level and we're pursuing regulatory approvals to make sure that they meet every safety standard appropriate to be in our diet. Right. We have about a half a dozen of those active on our platform, but have looked and done research on about eight. Um, And yes, the reason why we're looking at many, and what's so fascinating about these proteins, and again, one of the great marvels of the planet, right, is these species, these plants, fruits and berries are all different. And so the plants themselves and even the protein themselves are about 60% the same from a homology point of view, but about 40% difference. Mm-hmm. And what that means is when you start to look at a bunch of them, they're kind of like tools in a toolkit. And when we think about trying to use tools to replace sugar or to trick our brains into giving it what it wants, but our body a better path, right? You need different tools because think of all the different roles sugar plays in our food today. From sweetness to bulking to a lot of other things. So toolkit is the short version of the different ones and how are they different? I think that was one of the things you wanted to know about and I find this really fascinating. They're different in ways when we think about making them part of a food solution. Some will be more stable than others. So they can handle temperatures that are different. Some will be more soluble, some are perfect in drinks. Some could never be in drinks. Some work particularly well with acid, so they're really great when we're making fruit-based products. So let's say we make a fruit gummy, they're really gonna be strong in that and less good if it's, uh, more, savory, approach. So there, there are different, there are different tools. I'll tell you what I think is probably the most exciting thing we found about their differences, and I, I actually really love this because all these plants and berries we're kind of working on the same problem. And maybe I'll step back and give you a little bit of that history.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, let's do that. Yeah.

Ali Wing:

So the reason why, why were plants and berries growing, sort of producing these, evolving, we need to have this protein, right? It's, it's sort of simple. They were dying. And they're in almost exclusively precious ecosystems. So think kind of jungles or hard to reach places that you know are going to be the type of place that we would have a hard time replicating from an agricultural point of view. But they're also gonna be at the whims of nature. And you know, the method for any fruit or berry to grow is right to be attractive enough to be eaten, by an ape or a gorilla in those places, to have their seeds spread, right? Yeah. And they weren't being attractive enough. And so what they figured out is, they couldn't carry the caloric load of a carbohydrate. Um, it's more expensive for them, given all of their resources to be sweet through carbs and proteins are a much more caloric efficient way for them to actually be attractive. And so they started evolving to basically trick a T1R1 taste receptor, which is where any large primate experiences in their brain, this impression that they just had sugar. And that's exactly what they became. Trickster proteins. In fact, and I love this, one of the, the things that inspired our name today, Oobli, it's an inspiration of a story we've learned about local villages in communities around, places where sweet proteins were first found, and particularly this one that they've called the Oobli Fruit Sweet protein. Or the Oobli fruit. And that is, it's a French, speaking African village, and "Oubli" French word different than our spelling means forgetfulness. And the colloquial story about this particular fruit, is that it's so sweet, you forget your mother's milk. And so there was this discovery and that was the story, and that's our inspiration for our name.

Tom Raftery:

Nice, nice, nice, nice. And what do sweet proteins taste like? Are they just tastes like sugar or do they have some other kind of flavor or taste on them, or does it diff differ from the half a dozen that you've worked with?

Ali Wing:

They do, they compared to each other, they're pretty similar. Actually, when we use them in combination, they're even better as a mimic to sugar. So there's something interesting there, which is I'll, I'll get into a little bit. But I would say they evolved as a trickster sugar. So they're very good at tricking us, you know, gorillas, apes, and humans in thinking they're sugar. But we've been eating sugar in our diets, particularly humans for a long, long time. Right? So we are kind of a fine-tuned instrument when it comes to sugar and we know it the moment it, it hits our tongue. So when we do the clinical evaluation of sugar, we're looking at kind of a, hedonic scale of sugar and sort of how it actually, the, the curve, the Gaussian curve of. Um, in our taste profile. And what I can tell you is, because the molecular process of sweet proteins is slightly different, if you're a sugar, uh, sugar alternative that we know in our modern diets today, you're a small molecule and the moment you hit your tongue you actually are absorbing. So it's instantaneous. That's sort of that hit we love in sugar. A sweet protein actually is a protein and it binds to the taste receptors. Now, for you and I. That depends on our sugar sensitivity. It's about a one second delay. So if you're really sensitive, you're likely to notice that. And most people who are used to more sugar on their diet, um, will notice a slight delay, which is one of the reasons we often leave about a gram of agave or some clean sugar in a lot of our products. It's just really to give you that immediate, because it takes just a second, for the proteins to bind. Uh, and then the rest of it is sort of mimicking the curve. Proteins are very good at it. I would say, you know, they're probably better than anything we've seen as a sugar alternative at mimicking it. And the thing that I get the most excited about is because all these plants and berries were working on this simultaneously. Actually when you start combining them, they're even closer at it cuz they were each kind of trying to tackle the problem a little bit differently. So they round out that Gaussian curve a little bit better together. So that's the fun. But of course taste is the ultimate proof and we encourage people to try our first products that are out, which is chocolate. and drinks are coming soon.

Tom Raftery:

Fascinating. Fascinating. And I know that when we eat sugar, it goes into our bloodstream. That kind of hits a feedback loop somewhere in our, in our brain, which says, okay, you've had enough sugar. Now stop eating. Does that happen as well when you take non sugary sweet foods. Is that, I mean, we don't have that blood chemistry going on. Is it just from the, the taste buds?

Ali Wing:

Yeah. I mean the taste buds are really the satisfaction piece, right? That's where we experience it. The blood sugar is sort of the, uh, most would argue in our modern day diet, we've kind of lost our guidance on that sensory. Like we don't necessarily stop when we need to. But all you have to do is give it to a five year old and see the effect, right? Um, it's that blood sugar up and down. And so yeah, this is a lot more like eating a keto friendly diet, right? You're not gonna have that up and down, but it is your food, depending on what you're putting in your body as a source of energy, it's just gonna be less of a, a sort of spiking experience, which is what sugar in its pure form actually creates.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. One of the other sugar alternatives that a lot of people will have heard of is aspartame, and that's made from amino acids. Right? So what's, what's the difference between that and your proteins? The sweet proteins.

Ali Wing:

Every sugar alternative that you know of today. Aspertame, stevia, whether they're natural or chemicals, sugar alcohols, tagatose, they're all small molecules. Proteins are large molecules. And so fundamentally, just from a sort of, we go back to biology 1 0 1, our bodies are 50%. Our body weight are made up of proteins, and the way our body digests and uses proteins is just biologically different than any small molecule because it's a large molecule. And how that works is right after you eat it, right after it's in your mouth and you start to swallow it, it unfolds and the way it moves through your system is very different than a small molecule that's absorbed and then interacting with your blood glucose system throughout your entire digestive system and then in your gut microbiome with different effect depending on if it's a, um, artificial or made never been in your body before. Um, those are some of the complexities that some of the sugar alternatives are managing through. Proteins, you know, been around, we've been eating 'em as long as humans have been around. And the reality is, is they function in your body just very differently. And the, example I'll give you is that, okay, so that sweetness that triggers your brain, the moment it unfolds, there is no sweetness. So there's nothing triggering that in your body. It's digesting as if you had any other protein going through your body.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And why are sweet proteins important for improving our health?

Ali Wing:

Well today is what's US numbers. Actually, north American numbers are about 40% pre-diabetic, and obese we're about 20%, almost 22% now in kids. This is pretty much the same numbers throughout Latin America, Even countries that we think of as super healthy. Um, I think of Japan as one of those is almost up to 18 to 20% pre-diabetic. The reality is, is when you look at a global view of our modern diet, sugar has become, it's not the sole culprit of either of those things, but it's a chief culprit and it's become recklessly abundant in our diet. And we seem to be biologically designed to love our sugar and therefore crave it in more and more doses throughout the world. Right? But our body can't handle its reckless amounts. It's a little bit like fossil fuel. We know it's a super important crop. But we need to upgrade its role and use it differently. Sweet Proteins can make it an input to a fermentation process and the output product be something that gives us a lot less load in our body. And that's the goal really for Sweet proteins.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. Well, interesting that you mentioned fossil fuels, given this is the Climate Confident Podcast and we haven't really mentioned, why this is important for climate as well. So talk to me a little bit about that.

Ali Wing:

I think there's three legs to stand on in sustainability for what we're doing with sweet proteins. Sweet proteins, first of all, they, they're natural, right? They come from the planet, fruits and berries. But as I said earlier, they, they come from very precious ecosystems, right? So we wouldn't wanna agriculturally produce them. And so it's really the marriage of sweet proteins from nature and using precision fermentation that that yields this sort of climate positive sustainability position of what we're doing. And the short version is sort of three different factors. One sweet proteins are 2000 to 5,000 times sweeter on a weight, weight basis than sugar. So a little goes a long way. And the translation of that is we can use sugar now as an input to a fermentation process that can produce enough sweet protein for a multiplication of what we could ever do with that sugar. Right? So with just pure crop yield. An example is that for about every 1% sugar cane, 1% reduction in use of sugar is about 650,000 acres, and I'm sure you're super aware, but sugar cane has been on top most harmful crop, you know, list for a long time. Mm-hmm. And it's again, not the inherent bad of sugar cane. I'm actually a big proponent that it's an important crop, just like we think of fossil fuel, it's more what we've done with it and where we're doing it to, to produce as much as we are so we can change that equation. I think that's number one. I think number two is, and this is a gift not unique to Oobli, but to anybody doing precision fermentation, is fermentation is pretty, open to different types of sugar feed stocks, right? So any fermentation environment, whether you're doing beer or wine or precision fermentation, you're feeding something for yeast to produce mostly yeast, not always yeast, to produce what it's going to produce. And in the case of, sweet Proteins and Oobli Sweet Proteins, we're using a Pichia yeast. We feed it with a sugar stock, right? But that sugar stock isn't dependent upon a particular type of sugar stock, which means that we can do local production very effectively and efficiently by region. So if sugar beets in Europe is the best crop and keeps it in that region, I don't have to move it all over the world. So localized production on an efficient scale, I think is the big next climate, opportunity. And then the third, of course, is just this whole notion of yield. We can actually do a lot more with a lot less. Mm-hmm. Um, and that has a waterfall effect in most parts of our supply chain.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And what does the sweet protein that you guys produce, just from a practical perspective, what does it look like? Is it a syrup, is it a paste, is it a tablet? You know, how, what, what is it?

Ali Wing:

It can be any of those things, but typically for us it's like a powder. So it's for the average person if I had a little, you know, cup of sugar and a cup of sweet protein, um, if you just looked at it, you'd think I was carrying around a cup of sugar, maybe, right? Or a white powder. Right? You don't really know what it is, but that's actually just more a function of right now how we find using it in foods is actually its easiest application. And that's probably because we're generally replacing sugar, which is generally in a powder form, right? There are instances that may argue that we do it in a liquid and there are instances that we may actually bulk it eventually and do something in other forms, like a pill. We haven't gotten there yet. And that all really exists as a function of what we call our downstream process. So, upstream. We developed the strain that teaches our yeast how to make this, and then we brew it, which is the fermentation process, and then we actually separate it so that we only have the DNA that came from nature, the sweet protein separate from the brew or the broth. Right now, the way we do that is drying it to a powder form, but there are many different ways we could do that downstream processing.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, super. Now you mentioned that you're producing chocolate and you're heading towards, uh, fruit drinks as well. Is this something that you're going to keep unique to yourselves in Oobli, or are you going to offer your powder, liquid, whichever format to other food manufacturers as well?

Ali Wing:

It's a great question and I get asked a lot, particularly talking to investors. You know, are we B2C or b2? And the honest answer I always say is, I wake up every day to, build this company to bend the global health curve and do it in a planet friendly way. The only way to do that someday is um, we're not gonna build a company that's bigger than every, consumer food product company out there in the world today. The question's kind of more timing, and here's why we feel strongly about introducing products now for consumers and that's that we're so excited about the science and what it actually can do, but we still have to map it to how do you have consumers understand it and follow it and make sense of it in this noisy world of health, and environment, and food, and food choices, and all the complexities that go along with that. And when we've looked at the market and done quite a bit of studying here, I always like to say we've, we've sort of lost consumers in the sauce when it comes to sugar and sugar alternatives. They're all reporting in the research, three quarters, two-thirds to three quarters, depending on the research, say, I'm actively looking to reduce sugar. And that's been true for 20 years. And if you look at their health results for the last same time period, it's gotten worse. And the rub is kind of the 50 different types of sugar in the middle, the way we label it, where it shows up on nutrition fact panels, or not. And I would say we've just generally kind of lost consumers on it and, and they don't know what to, what to trust, what to believe. So really important part of our early products is really engaging with the consumer to introduce them less to yet another sugar and sugar alternative, but more to a new way to think about protein because consumers actually, quite opposite than sugar, trust proteins. And there's good reason they do cuz our bodies are really good at it. So what we really wanna do is introduce this idea that you can actually ask more from your protein than just energy. Your protein can also satisfy your sweet tooth, and let us introduce you to the sweet proteins that you've never met before. And a really important part of that is introducing it directly so that they can kind of have, I like to think of it as the wayfinding for solving this need that they have, which we hope number one is just cuz they love the great food, but number two, they can feel really good about it, that it's great for their body and it's solving the problem that they've been actively trying to do just relatively unsuccessfully for the last 20 years.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, cool. And these proteins, apart from mimicking sugars, do they have any other health benefits for the body?

Ali Wing:

Uh, they're keto friendly. Um, they're not protein loading. And I, I often say that because, those that are really devout protein followers are thinking about energy and loading. And that would be true if you put that much of a sweet protein in cuz it's like any other protein. But remember, we're using them to replace sugar and they're 2,000 to 5,000 times sweeter on a weight weight basis. So if you looked at a nutrition fact panel that we will have, like let's say you'll see on our sweet teas, or you'll see in our chocolate. Our sweet protein will always be the last one. Meanings the small amount in there. It's because you use tiny amounts and I'll give you an example. If we had, let's pick a no brand name orange soda, and say it's 16 ounces. Okay. On average that's

Tom Raftery:

what's 16. Sorry, what's 16 ounces in milliliters or liters roughly?

Ali Wing:

I'm not very good at that. Lemme see. I'm right out, out next to me. About 475

Tom Raftery:

mills. Okay.

Ali Wing:

Mill, yeah.

Tom Raftery:

Okay.

Ali Wing:

So roughly, think of it as a size, like a tall can.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, about half a liter.

Ali Wing:

Yeah, half a liter. That's kind of a standard drink. Ready to drink size, that somebody's gonna grab a soda today. Let's just say, I'm just picking orange. It could be any, but it, it gives me a good range to give you. A typical orange soda, which a lot of people in the middle and the southern part of the US love would have about 15 cubes of sugar in it. So just visually you can understand that. Right. So that's a lot of sugar, right? Wow. If we replace that, and I use soda as an example, or I use a drink as an example because in drinks the only roll of sugar is sweetness. It's not playing of functional roll too. So when you take it out, the rest is just water, right? Yep. So let's say we take something like that and you imagine your stack of 15 cubes of sugar in one drink. We would replace that same amount with a sweet protein, with about 0.02 or 0.03 milligrams and the rest is water, right? So when you think of that magnification of sweetness, it's a lot. And because of that, it'll always be small. So I emphasize that to say it's not protein loading, but it's keto friendly. It's just more protein. It'll probably just never be enough protein to actually change the amount of protein recorded on your nutrition fact panel and what amount is in that food.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. Fascinating. You're just starting, I know with your chocolate and the fruit drinks to come, where can people get a hold of your, chocolate today because I mentioned before we turned on the recorders that my older son is, type one diabetic, unfortunately. And when I mentioned this story to him, he was like, Ooh, I could have chocolate with no sugar. That'd be awesome. So when can we get it here in Spain? Can we get it here in Spain? For people listening in other places, you know, where are you selling today and how can people get ahold of it?

Ali Wing:

We're in our first generation of products. And so I put that caveat, it's not where we're stopping, so we're coming. But what that means, and I, I need to back up to say every protein, cuz there's not a long recorded history of use that's been documented, has to go through food toxicity and food safety regulatory standards in every market that we're in. Sure. So this first product and first set of, sort of protein powered products that we're producing is because we have our first protein approved in the US. So right now our sales are just US. We are actively taking all of those studies now and working on them in multiple countries. We're very active in Latin America. We're very active in parts of Southeast Asia. We're not as active yet in Europe, but it's not because we're not interested. It's just looking at where we have already a sponsored interest that is taking those, studies and moving them through the regulatory process. I would expect in the next few years you're gonna see most countries, with some more common standards for how we're gonna get at precision fermentation products. Today it takes a lot of resources for companies to break through this like us, because every single country has a different standard right now, um, because we're still relatively new in defining how are we gonna take the best of nature, but produce in ways that leverage technology that are still we're really comfortable with in our diet. And it's fair, it's a fair area for a lot of scrutiny. But it also means practically, it's a lot of rigor by country.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, sure. And are you a privately funded, VC funded, are you, publicly traded or, you know, where are you on that scale?

Ali Wing:

We're definitely venture funded. We're definitely not public. We're seven years in, and for the last six and a half years we were R&D only. So we're just into our first quarter of selling anything, right? Um, so we're in our first stage of commercialization. And we do have great, Silicon Valley, led, venture investors, largely who brought me in to help commercialize this company. And, they're big believers, not just in the sort of, growth opportunity around products, but sort of the reason we're all doing it, which is working on global health and supply chain.

Tom Raftery:

Cool. Yeah. Clean, clean, clean meats. And food tech is getting really hot right now, isn't it?

Ali Wing:

It is. It is. It's a, it's a complicated time, right at this very moment with the economic shifts that are going on in the world. But yeah, there's a lot of excitement, I think. Cultured meats, clean meats, meats and dairy of course dominate the conversation. What I think's particularly exciting for Oobli is we are in a lot of that exact same technology, but we're actually one of the first ones doing it with sweets. And sweets has been an area of need that is, um, really undeniable for a long time. The biggest challenge that our sort of cousins in, in meat and dairy have, and I'm a huge advocate of all of them, particularly from a climate point of view, is you still don't have consumers adopting at a fast enough rate. Whereas in sugar and sugar alternatives, you have consumers looking every which way up, up, up, down, and sideways. Um, just maybe being unsuccessful with it. So that's what we're particularly excited about is we, we have some, some of the same proposition, but maybe consumer demand is already there.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, no. Sounds great. Sounds great. We're coming towards the end of the podcast now, Ali. Is there any question that I haven't asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this we haven't touched on that you think it's important for people to think about?

Ali Wing:

I'm just gonna maybe emphasize the sweet teas that are coming. I know you said fruit drinks, they're, they're definitely fruity, sweet teas. But we're really excited about our next launch and in about a month you're gonna start to see drinks from us. And the question that I think is important sort of to ask and then answer is why drinks and why are we going after that category? Nobody really questions why are we thinking about sweets or confectionary? But I think drinks is a really important topic and it's kind of a good reminder, maybe my public service announcement to anybody who's listening is when you look at the data about health generally, but obesity and diabetes specifically throughout the world, the chief culprit within that problem is actually in our drinks. 40% of our daily added sugar now is coming through liquids. And that is what largely changed over the last 20 to 40 years. And that's an area where, I think sweet proteins have a particular leg up because the only role that sugar has played in, in drinks is sweetness. So actually taking it out and just filling the rest with water is a very quick fit. But it's also a good reminder for everybody when they think about where are they with their overall health sort of equation is really paying attention to the sugar load in drinks. Um, that's the big, big contributor to today's food.

Tom Raftery:

Really interesting. Yeah, because, I don't have a sweet tooth, so I don't drink or eat sweet things generally. But I do like beer. And you did mention there were some savory proteins there as well, so that might be another side project.

Ali Wing:

Ja uh, Jason is, uh, my partner and our CTO is a, is a big beer brewer, and he always jokes that he, he likes to drink his sweets too. And he likes to ferment his sweets. Um, so yeah, it's a definitely on on his radar. Um, awesome. The good news is that you don't have super high sugars in beer, so that, that's good. But, but you would know from a beer drinking love that when you do fermentation, sometimes you can have a very dry one if you take too much of the sugar out right. Of the brew. Yeah. So that's some of the same sort of nuance that we do when we're actually producing our sweet proteins.

Tom Raftery:

Fantastic. Great. Ali, if people would like to know more about yourself or Sweet Proteins or any of the things we talked about in the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?

Ali Wing:

Well, for sure our website. That's always a great source, Oobli, oobli.com. And I encourage people if they're interested in Sweet Proteins, not only to check us out, but to sign up to be in the know, because we're announcing in what countries, in what food categories, in what places we're releasing products, right? So there will be other people than us. We'll work with partners, we'll work with distributors. We're working with restaurants. We'll even have products with other people. But the place we'll always be announcing that, is at oobli.com. So I encourage people to sign up and, and stay in the know. The other thing that I think is helpful, and I think Tom, I can send it to you, um, if you wanna post it, with the podcast, is we recently just released our blog and we have a really great overview on Sweet Proteins. So if you have questions you don't think were answered today and you'd like to read a little bit more, there's a great sort of Sweet Proteins 101 blog now available on our site.

Tom Raftery:

Fantastic. Yep. Send me that link and I'll put it in the show notes and that way everyone will have access to it. Ali, thanks a million for coming in the podcast today. It's been really fascinating.

Ali Wing:

Thank you. Thank you for having me. I enjoyed the conversation.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about the Climate Confident podcast, feel free to drop me an email to Tom raftery@outlook.com. Or message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you like the show, please, don't forget to click follow on it in your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks, catch you all next time.