A typical 500ml bubble tea or boba contains at least 8.5 teaspoons (34g) of sugar, though of course, customers can ask for a less sugary option. Each cup can contain anywhere between 281 to 640 calories. The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines’ suggests a total daily intake of not more than 50g of sugar, and a single boba takes up more than half the allocation. If you’re looking at weight loss, or just to monitor your sugar intake, a steady dose of high sugar bubble tea isn’t going to do your health any good.
Because the boba culture has raised concerns about its effect on diabetes and obesity, Australian food ingredient specialist Holista CollTech Ltd and SunFresh Fruit Hub Sdn Bhd (Fruit Hub), which processes and packages fruit juices and beverage ingredients, will be collaborating on a research to produce three key healthy ingredients for the global bubble tea industry.
That means, a healthier version of bubble tea!
Holista and Fruit Hub will co-develop healthy versions of three boba ingredients without altering the taste and feel. All three ingredients: the pearls, sugar syrup and sugar caramel will have a lower Glycemic Index (GI), which is healthier as more time is taken to digest and absorb glucose. A higher GI spikes up blood sugar levels, causing diabetes and increasing the chances of obesity, stroke and heart disease.
All three products will be tested by the Sydney University GI Research Service (SUGiRS) by the end of November before hitting local and international markets by the first quarter of 2020.
The low-GI pearls or tapioca starch balls measuring 0.8 to 1.0 cm each accounts for about a third of the drink’s calorie count. Holista will combine its patented GI-Lite™, an all-natural formula with tapioca starch to lower the GI without any discernible change in taste or texture. Fruit Hub is processing the pearls at its facility in Pahang, using a formula of its Taiwanese partner, YongDa Food Technology Co. Ltd. Subject to final tests, they’re expecting to lower the GI of the pearls from 70-75 currently to below 55.
The Sugar Syrup
The sugar syrup using Holista’s proprietary low-GI and low-calorie sugar, 80Less™, will have 80% fewer calories and yet deliver the same taste sensation.
The Sugar Caramel or Brown Sugar
Holista’s low-GI sugar caramel/ brown sugar retains sweetness with lower calories. Made from molasses, it is used as a pre-pour to sweeten the ‘pearls’ or as a medium to cook them.
Did you know?
- Boba originated in Taiwan and has spread rapidly to other parts of Asia. The Taiwan boba market alone is expected to grow to RM13.46 billion by 2023 from RM8.22 billion in 2016, according to Allied Market research.
- An independent market analysis firm, Straits Research, has estimated Malaysia’s boba market at RM209 million and to be growing at a rate of 6.9% from 2019 to 2026.
- According to a popular online food delivery app, boba orders in Southeast Asia increased 3,000% in 2018 year on year. The app is connected to the 4,000 boba outlets in the region, which are growing at a rate of 200%.
- Its data also shows that consumers in the region consume at least 4 cups a month, led by Thailand (6 cups), Philippines (5) and 3 for each of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.