Kiwi developed sugar substitute tackles obesity
A new low-calorie sugar alternative made entirely from fruit and developed by Kiwis, is set to offer companies around the world a natural way to reduce sugar in everyday foods and beverages such as cereals, yoghurts and juices, without compromising flavour.
Developed by Kiwi and Chinese joint venture company Guilin GFS Monk Fruit Corporation, Sweet-Delicious is a natural fruit juice made from a small Chinese melon called monk fruit. As a natural low-calorie alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners it is a new way to tackle the growing obesity epidemic.
In New Zealand alone, it’s believed 1.2 million Kiwis are obese, at a cost of over $650 million every year to the public health system, and many companies are seeking ways to sweeten food while avoiding artificial ingredients and sugar.
Sweet-Delicious has a number of advantages over existing low-calorie sweeteners. As well as being completely natural, it is considered a food ingredient rather than an additive, and has a clean taste profile that allows it to be used in a wide range of foods and beverages.
Several high profile New Zealand investors are backing the venture, including Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 innovation fund, ACC, and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.
“Today, product formulators have a toolkit that consists of high-intensity sweeteners, sugar alcohols and low-calorie sugars, but all these products come with limitations and challenges in terms of taste, labelling and consumer perception,” says David Thorrold, New Zealand general manager sales and marketing for Monk Fruit Corp.
“However, Sweet-Delicious is a completely natural fruit juice with a very clean taste which meets the consumer demand for natural food products and ingredients that don’t compromise on flavour.”
Sweet-Delicious is already being used by two local manufacturers: Auckland-based cereal and product development company Smartfoods, owners of the well-known Vogel’s cereal brand; and INLINE Nutrition, based in Dunedin, which uses a powdered form of the monk fruit juice in their protein supplements.
“We have worked with the usual natural high intensity sweeteners, but monk fruit juice concentrate has outperformed the alternatives in terms of taste while also offering a very consumer-friendly ingredient label,” said King Chok, innovation and product development manager with Smartfoods.
“Because of these benefits we have incorporated monk fruit juice in a new product formulation that we have just completed for a major Australian supermarket chain” he says.
The ingredient also has applications in the growing health food market.
“After testing a range of different options, monk fruit juice won out due to its clean flavour profile and low calorie count.” says Lawrence Alloo, managing director at INLINE Nutrition. “We also didn’t want to compromise by using an artificial sweetener, or anything that interfered with the great taste.”
With the global sweetener market now worth more than US$60bn per annum, Monk Fruit Corp. will harvest 250 million monk fruits this year, and is the world’s largest producer of the fruit.
The product has FSANZ approval, and is considered a traditional food in New Zealand, Australia and China. Monk Fruit Corp. has patent applications in place for Sweet-Delicious in China, the USA and Europe, and will officially launch the product at one of the world’s biggest food ingredient trade shows (IFT 2015) this week.
A monk fruit extract product developed by the company for the US market is already being used by some of the world’s biggest food producers, including Nestlé, Pepsico, The Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, and Kellogg.
Thorrold says the company expects to see plenty of interest as the world continues to search for ways to fight the obesity epidemic and looks for more natural alternatives in food products.
“We expect within two years that we will have regulatory approvals and product introductions covering over 5 billion consumers, and that within 3 years this will extend to around 75% of the world’s population,” he says.
"With a compelling, uniquely differentiated value proposition, we believe monk fruit juice has a bright future as a global solution for sugar and calorie reduction.”