Prepare to hear more about another natural high-intensity sweetener. While stevia extracts began gaining acceptance as a sweetener in foods and beverages in 2008, extracts from monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, appear set to impact the sweetener market now.

The new high-intensity sweetener, like extracts from stevia leaves, is from a natural source, has no calories and is several hundred times sweeter than sucrose. Suppliers of monk fruit say the products have fewer taste issues.

“Monk fruit is arguably a better tasting product,” said Chris Tower, president of Layn USA, Newport Beach, Calif., which is involved in both stevia extracts and monk fruit extracts. “Stevia largely needs to be masked with other ingredients.”

While stevia suppliers focus on extracting Rebaudioside A, one of the sweetest steviol glycosides of the stevia leaf, suppliers of monk fruit deal with about a dozen mogrosides, which are also glycosides, Mr. Tower said.

“Mogroside V is arguably the sweetest one,” he said.

Layn USA offers monk fruit sweeteners under a Gu-Luo trademark. They are up to 350 times sweeter than sucrose. The sweeteners have mogroside V levels ranging from 20% to 50%. Gu-Luo has been shown to reduce sugar in applications by 50% through the addition of monk fruit extract at 0.5% along with additional water to make up for lost volume, Mr. Tower said.

The company also offers Lovia, which is a blend of Rebaudioside A extracted from stevia leaves and mogroside V extracted from monk fruit. Lovia’s sweetness ranges from 30 times to 100 times that of sucrose. By weakening the bitter compounds in stevia and using the front end sweetness of monk fruit, Lovia provides a rounded, longer lasting sweetness in products, according to Layn USA.

London-based Tate & Lyle offers Purefruit, a monk fruit extract. Manufacturing includes a water-based extraction process along with filtration to clean the extracts’ taste and leave no bitter or metallic off-taste, said Jeremy Thompson, product manager of Purefruit.

The monk fruit extract is spray-dried to facilitate its use in a range of food and beverage applications, according to Tate & Lyle.

When using monk fruit, food and beverage companies may consider price.

“Monk fruit is more expensive on a kilo basis when compared to stevia,” Mr. Tower said, and explained it costs more to cultivate.

Layn USA is a subsidiary of Guilin Layn Natural Ingredients Corp. in China. Monk fruit is grown in Guilin, a province in China, Mr. Tower said. An established farming base has grown the fruit for use in hot tea in China, and acreage may scale up if demand requires it.

“That’s obviously hugely important,” Mr. Tower said.

Tate & Lyle has teamed with BioVittoria Ltd. for its supply of monk fruit.

BioVittoria, based in New Zealand, has a grower network of about 3,000 members based around Guilin in China’s Northern Guangxi Province. In the past two years BioVittoria has increased supply by about three to four times, Mr. Thompson said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Jan. 15, 2010, issued a “no objection” letter to BioVittoria relating to the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of monk fruit extracts for use as sweeteners and flavor enhancers in foods, excluding meat and poultry products.

The F.D.A. on April 11, 2011, issued a “no objection” letter to Guilin Layn Natural Ingredients Corp. relating to the GRAS status of monk fruit extracts for use as sweeteners and flavor enhancers in foods, excluding meat and poultry products.

Tate & Lyle and BioVittoria supply monk fruit extracts to McNeil Nutritionals, L.L.C., Fort Washington, Pa., for its Nectresse, a new tabletop sweetener that includes monk fruit, erythritol, sugar and molasses.

“The tabletop sweeteners aisle is often where people first become acquainted with a new sweetener,” Mr. Thompson said. “That’s a very exciting thing for us to see with this product line.”

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Bentonville, Ark., now offers Monk Fruit To Go at the retail level. The sweetener includes water, monk fruit extract, malic acid and the preservatives sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate.

Cumberland Packing Corp., Brooklyn, N.Y., launched Monk Fruit In The Raw, a zero-calorie natural sugar substitute, at the retail level in October. Monk Fruit In The Raw does not contain added table sugar, polyols or molasses, according to the company, which also offers Sugar In The Raw, Stevia In The Raw and Agave In The Raw.

The awareness and reach of stevia continue to grow

A marketing campaign, retail product innovation and distribution expansion all are boosting the market for stevia extract sweeteners this year.

Cargill, Minneapolis, in September launched a multimillion dollar integrated marketing campaign: “From Nature. For Sweetness.” It is designed to promote consumer awareness, trial and adoption of Truvia products in the United States. Truvia contains stevia, erythritol and natural flavors.

While Truvia is sold at the retail level, Cargill also offers stevia extracts for industrial use as ingredients in foods and beverages.

“The objective behind the new Truvia advertising campaign is to shine a spotlight on the stevia plant to emphasize the beautiful simplicity of its natural origin,” said Matthew Jacobs, Truvia global communications manager for Cargill. “Giving consumers a virtual first taste of the leaf is the most direct way to explain to consumers where the sweetness in Truvia products is derived.

“As the business continues to focus on attracting new users to the category, we must raise awareness not only about the story of its origin but also communicate in a way that has appeal among a wider group of consumers. That is why there is a progression from the female-focused advertising of the past to the current ‘From Nature. For Sweetness’ positioning. Food and beverage manufacturers using stevia leaf extract in their products, therefore, should be delighted to see how the Truvia brand is attempting to expand relevance and acceptance through the new campaign.”

Cargill cites Mintel data showing stevia-based products are expected to represent about 80% of the market for natural sweeteners. Cargill also cites The Nielsen Co. data that show more than 56
million U.S. households have purchased products made with stevia sweeteners.

Zanna McFerson, assistant vice-president of Cargill Health & Nutrition, was named president of the International Stevia Council in October. Other appointments included Carl Horn of Real Stevia as vice-president and Sebastian Winkelhaus of Verdue Science as treasurer. The International Stevia Council is a trade association that represents the interests of companies that process, manufacture and/or market stevia sweetener products.

Wisdom Natural Brands, Gilbert, Ariz., also offers stevia for industrial use as an ingredient in foods and beverages as well as a retail product called SweetLeaf Stevia. The company expanded the retail line to include 17 flavors of SweetLeaf liquid stevia sweet drops. Consumers may use them to add flavor to such products as yogurt, oatmeal, water, coffee, sauces and smoothies.

Sweet Green Fields, Bellingham, Wash., in October announced an expansion of its stevia extracts distribution in Mexico and the eastern United States.

Atlantic Ingredients, Fort Mill, S.C., also will distribute stevia extracts in the eastern United States. Atlantic Ingredients supplies more than 800 ingredient items and has plant and warehouse locations throughout the East coast.

FX Morales y Asociados S.A. de C.V. will distribute stevia extracts from Sweet Green Fields in Mexico. Customers of FX Morales include Grupo Gamesa, Grupo Bimbo S.A.B. de C.V., Grupo Maseca, The Kellogg Co., Nestle S.A., Kraft Foods Inc., Unilever and Bristol Myers Squibb.

“Thanks to our new local partners, we will be able to expand our reach and offer our product to companies looking to enter the right calorie segment by including stevia and other sugar blends shown to reduce calories up to 50% without sacrificing on flavor,” said Dean Francis, chief executive officer of Sweet Green Fields.

Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., promotes how its Enliten stevia extracts may be combined with other sweeteners, such as the company’s Erysta erythritol. More than 30 years of plant selection and breeding led to the development of the plant variety and production system from which Enliten is obtained.