A new 0-Cal sweetener just made its market debut: monk fruit concentrate. But its sweet taste and healthy qualities have been known for hundreds of years in its native region. Indigenous to Southeast Asia, this vine-grown, subtropical fruit in the melon family not only is sweet but also contains antioxidants and vitamins.

In concentrated form, monk fruit (the translation for its Chinese name,
luo han guo) can sweeten all types of foods and beverages without adding any calories. The fruit’s sweetness comes from naturally occurring compounds called mogrosides (triterpene glycosides), which in pure form are up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Recent research found the fruits to be rich in antioxidants — not surprising, since they have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.

In recent years, the monk fruit industry was industrialized with technological advances in plant varieties, seedling cultivation, growing methods and fruit processing, creating a vertically integrated monk fruit supply chain. In 2010, BioVittoria, a New Zealand supplier of Fruit-Sweetness monk fruit concentrate obtained Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) Notified status through review by an expert panel and a “no objections” letter from the Food and Drug Administration. This marked the final necessary step in bringing monk fruit into mainstream America food formulating. It appears on ingredient statements as either “monk fruit concentrate” or “luo han guo.”

“We conducted extensive sensory profiling that shows our monk fruit concentrate possesses a clean taste profile without the off notes found in some other sweeteners,” said Paul Paslaski, vice-president of sales and marketing for BioVittoria, Chicago, IL. Made from patented non-GM plants through a proprietary process, Fruit-Sweetness monk fruit concentrate is about 150 times as sweet as sucrose. “Further, this testing has also shown cost and taste benefits for blending monk fruit concentrate with other natural sweeteners such as those based on stevia,” he added.

Read More on the Subject:
Fruit's Sweet Secrets
Maple syrup adds flavor, with benefits