For over a decade, Monk Fruit Corp has been the world's leading supplier of monk fruit products. With offices in China, the US, New Zealand and now Belgium, Monk Fruit Corp has unmatched experience in providing the highest-quality product, and outstanding customer service to many of the world's largest food and beverage, and food ingredient companies.
Sharing his views on the current state of play in relation to sugar reduction, David Thorrold, general manager of sales and marketing, and director of Monk Fruit Corp, says, "Despite growing demand from consumers and regulators for sugar reduction, and an expanding toolkit for low-calorie sweetening, creating reduced-sugar products continues to be a significant challenge for formulators and brand managers.
"Existing artificial sweeteners have a relatively low cost and acceptable sensory performance, but brand managers know that the presence of these additives is a negative for consumer acceptance," he adds. "Similarly, while the new generation of stevioside-based sweeteners such as rebaudioside M offer better taste than natural plantextracted rebaudioside A, these new steviosides use either genetically modified (GM) yeast or GM bacteria in the manufacturing process. As a result, brand managers are reluctant to use these new sweeteners, knowing that the consumer influencers they are trying to reach expect full transparency in relation to ingredients and processing methods, and that the presence of GM organisms in the production process will significantly undermine the natural or clean label credentials of the brand."
However, Thorrold believes that this increased consumer scrutiny of ingredients and processing methods is positive for monk fruit.
"The strong consumer preference for naturally sourced and produced ingredients is not compatible with the use of artificial sweeteners or the GM production methods used for the new generation of synthetic rebaudioside sweeteners," he explains. "This is driving increased interest in monk fruit and rebaudioside A, which remain the only cost-effective plant- sourced sweetening ingredients that are extracted directly from plant raw material. While rebaudioside A is known to have challenges related to its bitter and metallic aftertaste, it has the advantage of having high consumer awareness in the EU and the US, where it is often labelled as a 'stevia leaf extract'.
"Monk fruit, on the other hand, has a very clean flavour profile, without lingering bitterness, while also having a consumer-friendly label that leverages its fruit source. Monk fruit juice, in particular, is a unique solution for low-calorie sweetness because it is regulated and labelled as a food ingredient rather than a food additive, which allows formulators to create products with less sugar while avoiding the need to use food additives."
In the past, the main hurdle for the adoption of monk fruit was regulatory approval, but thanks to the work of market leaders like Monk Fruit Corp, these barriers are now coming down. A submission is currently with the EU's food regulator for the approval of monk fruit powder extract for use as a sweetener; the legal deadline for their response is February 2019. Based on this, Monk Fruit Corp expects that monk fruit powder extract will officially be approved for use in the EU by the end of 2019.
Monk fruit achieved US FDA generally recognised as safe (GRAS) status in January 2010, and it is also approved or commonly used in most countries in East and South East Asia. Monk fruit juice can be used as a food ingredient in Canada, Israel and India, as well as Australia and New Zealand, where monk fruit powder extract was also recently approved for use.
As new regulatory approvals are achieved, monk fruit is rapidly emerging as a mainstream, truly natural, low-calorie sweetening solution; as of October 2018, more than 2,000 food, beverage and supplement products containing monk fruit have been launched globally.
Thorrold sees a bright future for monk fruit, saying that it "is now emerging as the preferred solution for formulators and brand managers that are looking to reduce sugar without compromising taste, while meeting consumer demands for food ingredients that are naturally sourced and processed".
"As the world's leading monk fruit company, Monk Fruit Corp is eagerly anticipating the approval of monk fruit in the EU. We see tremendous potential for monk fruit in the EU, and we are looking forward to bringing monk fruit to European food and beverage companies, and consumers."