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Consumers Soon to Savor A Sweeter Life

Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious, which opens the market to innovation. How about a product, that cuts calories and reduces sugar intake, while preserving the original taste? What sounds like a magic formula, is set to enter the market.

As the owner of a successful commercial real estate company in the 1990s, Australian born Michael Lehman enjoyed a rewarding, fast-paced career, but felt unfulfilled. Frequent business lunches, dinners and parties with clients proved to benefit sales, but resulted in decreased health and vitality. It had always been his wish to improve the lives of others and better society in a tangible way, a goal which he didn't see realized in real estate.

He recognized that he needed to change his path. "I had developed, through my wife's influence, a strong interest in preventative lifestyle, " he remembers. "I wasn't living a particularly healthy life, because I was entertaining a lot and there was a lot of drinking and much pressure. It really wasn't my preference. So, I made a conscious choice to really focus on health and well-being and making a business model out of that," Lehman states.

Beyond the Bottom Line

Already a successful entrepreneur, his career change would be about more than the bottom line. Thus, his interests in nutrition, alternative medicine and health resulted in the creation of NNP in 1999, and its subsequent incorporation in 2001. To fund the startup, he raised money by contacting family, friends, colleagues and associates who also believed that they could influence society's wellness.

True to his mission, Lehman strengthened the health and wellness industry by introducing unfamiliar products and health alternatives to the mainstream. Products that Lehman brought to the market, which are now lauded worldwide for their reported antioxidant and cancer fighting properties were Co-enzyme Q-10 and Hawaiian noni juice. The company also presented Australian green barley powder recognized for its richness in minerals, B-vitamins and protein. The lesson Lehman learned while developing and introducing multiple products to the market resonated. "What I learned from all those experiences is that if you don't control supply, you are subject to vagaries – someone else controls your destiny," he notes.

Controlling Supply Brings Success

NNP seamlessly manages every aspect of their latest product, PlantZap®'s, development. PlantZap® a product discovered by Queensland government scientists during research into sugar mill processes, will change the quality and quantity of food and beverage products consumed, because it can be used to reduce the calorie content of food and carbonated drinks by as much as fifty percent. In 2008, NNP acquired the global commercial rights to PlantZap®'' touted as the answer to obesity, from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Unknown to those outside of the Food and Beverage Industry, Lehman explains that the strength of "PlantZap®' is derived from the minerals in the sap of the sugar cane plant. "We're pulling out the minerals that normally get lost in processing the juice and concentrating them. The resulting liquid has high levels of potassium, low levels of sodium and interesting levels of magnesium, and virtually no sugar," explains Lehman.

The Queensland government has created and patented the PlantZap® production process and product. NNP is taking the invention to the world while establishing partnerships with mills, engaging in product development with global leaders and entering into collaborative agreements with the Queensland research team to further develop the technology and product. Mr. Lehman adds, "No one that I've met – be it a scientist, an engineer, a sugar expert, someone in the food and beverage industry, has been able to punch a hole in this concept, on the technology or on the product side."

The Writing's on the Wall

Consumers have become increasingly health-conscious and major food and beverage companies are paying attention to the clamor for healthier products. In the past few years, heavyweights, Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola Co., both introduced "green" drinks, which assured less sugar and fewer calories, to select global markets. Fast food chains, including McDonalds and Burger King, prominently display healthier options and calorie counts on their menus, and the sale of premium water and coconut water continue to surpass market expectations.

Lehman has made it his mission to explain and promote the efficacy and exceptional qualities of PlantZap®, as he highlights, "The manufacturers all want to reduce the sugar. They see the writing on the wall and want to reduce the calories, but they are concerned about losing taste. There's a mouth feel and texture that sugar gives. What we're able to do is reduce the sugar without losing that mouth feel, delivery or sacrificing taste.

Not Competition, but a Guiding Hand

The demand from consumers for less sugar and less calories could foretell dark days ahead for the sugar industry. He credits Stefan Natello's Credit Suisse Sugar Report 2013 for predicting the current demands. However, he underlines that the sugar industry should feel encouraged and not threatened by PlantZap®.

"Sugar companies have to reinvent themselves. I see our product not as competition for the sugar industry. Our product and technology can show them a way forward; the technology can help them increase their yield and at the same time generates a high value product stream that traditionally has been lost in molasses. Thereby, helping to stem the tide of the sort of losses and challenges they're going to face in this reduction in demand of sugar over time. I don't think it's going to change the world altogether. But at the end of the day, I think it really helps sugar companies to have some options."

The Road Ahead

For those gauging the company's progress, it may seem that the most important hurdles have been overcome. However, Lehman notes that NNP "is very close, but not there yet," as they are in the process of raising funds to build a multi-million dollar extraction plant. He acknowledges fundraising as a challenging task at best, and recounts numerous potential investors saying, "Go and make this one work, then we'll talk to you."

Lehman has said the company's strong relationship with Credit Suisse has been invaluable on all aspects including IPO. He relates that NNP is still encouraging investors to come on board, and that Credit Suisse has been assisting on the raising. "This is the year. We want this product in all food and beverages, alcohol and pet food, because we know it's doing the world good," he says.