NZ firm eyes EU entry for natural sweetener from monk fruit

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Stevia Sugar

NZ firm eyes EU entry for natural sweetener from monk fruit
The New-Zealand-based firm driving the commercialisation of an intense natural sweetener from monk fruit (luo han guo) is seeking clearance to market it in the EU following successful trials with some of the world’s leading food and drink manufacturers.

Around 150 times sweeter than sugar, Fruit-Sweetness from monk fruit processor BioVittoria secured a ‘no objections letter’ from the US Food and Drug Administration affirming its Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) status in January.

The sweetener, which is heat- and acid-stable and soluble in water and ethanol, is not currently approved as a novel food in the EU, BioVittoria chief executive David Thorrold told, "but we will be applying for regulatory approval in the near future".

He added: "Since we received our no objection letter from the FDA we have had phenomenal interest. A number of products incorporating Fruit-Sweetness have already been launched in the US, and there are projects underway using it at most of the world’s largest food and beverage companies.

“In the technical work we have done we have found it performs very well in most food and beverage systems. There are significant opportunities in confectionery categories such as gum, which is already largely sugar-free, and carbonated soft drinks.”

Fruit-Sweetness did not have the "lingering bitter off notes​" associated with some other sweeteners, he claimed. A blend of Reb-A ​[a natural sweetener from stevia],and Fruit-Sweetness tastes better than Reb-A by itself, which is another option for formulators.”

RSSL: Growing interest

Several food and drink manufacturers had approached Reading, UK-based firm RSSL keen to experiment with samples of the sweetener in the event that it did get the thumbs up in the EU, RSSL innovation development manager Carole Bingley told

“There are some challenges, as with any sweetener - you can’t just do a straight replacement of one with another – you need to do some reformulation work. But I predict growing interest as companies want to use natural sweeteners.

"Fruit-Sweetness works well in blends with Reb-A. I’ve also noticed that the quality of the samples we are getting now has improved considerably, which may reflect improved extraction techniques."

Patent protection

Fruit-Sweetness is produced via a patented process from fruit cultivated using BioVittoria's patented plant varieties at a processing facility in Hamilton. This will have an initial processing capacity of up to 60t of finished product a year.

Monk fruits are grown 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, claimed Thorrold.

BioVittoria was founded in 2003 by former HortResearch scientist Dr Garth Smith and American businessman Stephen LeFebvre.

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