3 years after US entry, monk fruit reaches mainstream, more categories

Monk fruit's most popular product applications are dairy and beverages. But it is also being sold as a stand-alone tabletop sweetener, among other applications.

Joysa Winter

May 20, 2013

4 Min Read
3 years after US entry, monk fruit reaches mainstream, more categories
<p> A worker hand-pollinates monk fruit growing on Layn USA&#39;s growing fields in China.</p>

Since its launch in 2011, LAYN USA's signature monk fruit ingredient called GoLuo®55 is now found in a number of table top sweeteners in both powder and liquid form, beverage and juice products, as well as powder protein shake mixes. Most recently, the company is working with GoLuo®55 applications in fish oil-based products, gummy vitamins and gourmet chocolates, said ChrisTower, president of LAYN USA.

Monk fruit is still a fairly new ingredient to the U.S.marketplace. Extracted from the Chinese fruit lo han guo, monk fruit earned GRAS status under the Food and Drug Administration by New Zealand supplier BioViottoria in 2010, followed by Chinese supplier Guilin LAYN Natural Ingredients in 2011.

Earlier-generation monk fruit extracts had a characteristic fruity or subtle caramelized flavor, which serves well in particular formulations, in masking bitterness and aftertaste issues with other ingredients or sweeteners. But LAYN’s newer-generation premium monk fruit extract is made with a technology that eliminates monk fruit's organoleptic characteristics.

"GoLuo®55 is approximately 300 times the sweetness of both sugar/sucrose and erythritol, and provides an exceptionally clean-bodied taste," said Tower. "According to an independent consumer evaluation, its taste is closest to sugar among the non-sugar high intensity sweeteners on the market."

Monk fruit pairing up with beverages

One product that showcases how much monk fruit has evolved is Cumberland's Monk Fruit in the Raw, launched in 2012. It is a pure monk fruit ingredient, with no other sweeteners used.

So far, a look at the finished product marketplace shows that monk fruit's most popular product applications are dairy and beverages. Its addition to  beverages has been driven in part by the fact that beverages is one of the primary areas consumers are looking to reduce their sugar and calorie intake.

Explains David Thorrold, CEO of competing monk-fruit supplier BioViottoria: “There is a lot of innovation in the beverage category focused on reducing sugar, but consumers are looking for natural sweetening options. Juice drinks make up a large part of this category, and sweetening with monk fruit is very intuitive.”According to NPD Group, as measured by number of servings, lower-calorie beverages gained 9.5% between 2006 and 2011. In terms of share of total sales, lower-calorie drinks claimed 32.4% of sales in 2006, versus 34.1% of sales in 2011.

In April 2012, BioViottoria supplied the monk fruit ingredient for NECTRESSE Natural No Calorie Sweetener, a tabletop sweetener. McNeil Nutritionals LLC launched the sweetener in the United Stateswith the PR help of renowned journalist Lisa Ling.

BioViottoria's latest innovation is offering a monk fruit extract for use in beverages called Fruit-Sweetness. The ingredient is very soluble in water and ethanol, non-fermentable, resistant to bacterial and fungal spoilage, and does not decompose under continuous heating at 120⁰C for 12 hours. It can be stored for long periods of time without changes in taste, smell or appearance.

The company is also developing a monk fruit juice. “We are working on a number of other products sourced from monk fruit. Some will offer reduced-calorie sweetening with other functional benefits, and we will also have products targeting the dietary supplement space,” Thorrold said.

Other products:

● In April 2013, a Chinese company, Guiling Zhiren Food Industry, launched Grosvenor Siraitia Tea. Grosvenor siraitia is rich in vitamin C, glycosides, fructose, glucose, protein and fat. The tea is said to cool the body internally, nourish lungs and intestines, stop a cough and dissolve phlegm.

● South Beach Diet unveiled a meal replacement drink to the internet/mail order market in March 2013. South Beach Diet Strawberry Banana Flavoured Snack Smoothie is naturally sweetened with monk fruit extract and is packed with protein and fiber to help manage hunger between meals. It contains 45 percent less sugar than the leading weight loss shake. The product is free of artificial flavors and sweeteners.

● Also in March 2013, So Delicious Minis unveiled Vanilla Flavored Almond Milk Ice Cream Sandwiches. Low in fat, and free of dairy or GMO ingredients, the product is also kosher certified and appropriate for vegans. The product contains almond milk, tapioca syrup, inulin root extract, liquid sugar, erythritol, pea protein and monk fruit, among other ingredients.

● In 2012, Beach Body reformulated certain versions of its popular-selling Shakeology, applying monk fruit as a healthy option in reducing the level of fructose without compromising taste, and enabling Beach Body to add additional functional health ingredients into the formula with the extra “room” available given the exclusion of fructose.

Want to learn more? This is a small part of the Engredea Monograph: Sweeteners Edition.


About the Author(s)

Joysa Winter

Joysa has been reporting on the healthy foods and dietary supplements industry for more than a decade. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and has a master's degree in Hebrew Letters.

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