New sweetener on the block

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fruit

An intense natural sweetener derived from monk fruit (luo han guo) is starting to attract more interest from EU manufacturers after gaining regulatory approval in the US.

Reading-based RSSL has been working with a client to develop products for the US market using Fruit-Sweetness, a zero calorie powdered sweetener from monk fruit developed by New Zealand-based firm BioVittoria.

RSSL technical manager Sarah Marshall said: "It's nice to work with as it doesn't have a metallic aftertaste like some other intense sweeteners. It also works well in blends with Rebaudioside-A (Reb-A) [a natural sweetener from stevia that is awaiting approval in the EU]. Whether it works best alone or in combination with other sweeteners depends on the application as it has a fruity, slightly honeyish taste."

Around 150 times sweeter than sugar, Fruit-Sweetness is the first all-natural zero-calorie fruit concentrate sweetener to gain Generally Recognised As Safe notification from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Heat stable and soluble in water and ethanol, the sweetener is produced via a patented process from fruit cultivated using BioVittoria's patented plant varieties at a new processing facility in Hamilton. This will have an initial processing capacity of up to 60t of finished product a year, said chief executive David Thorrold. "We have conducted extensive sensory profiling that shows Fruit-Sweetness possesses a clean taste profile without the off notes found in some natural sweeteners. This testing has also shown cost and taste benefits for blending Fruit-Sweetness with other natural sweeteners such as Reb A."

Monk fruits are grown exclusively in southern China, where they have been used for years as sweeteners and in traditional medicine. The intensity of the sweetness in the extracts is directly proportional to levels of a compound called Mogroside V in the flesh of the fruit, said Thorrold.

BioVittoria was founded in 2003 by former HortResearch scientist Dr Garth Smith and American businessman Stephen LeFebvre, who had close New Zealand connections and business interests.

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