Today’s consumers are much more educated on the impacts of diet, leading them to speak out about what they see on nutrition labels and ingredient lists.
Research has shown these shoppers are more apt to choose clean labeling, focus on natural ingredients, and prefer ingredients with additional functional benefits, all without sacrificing on taste.1
Taste can often get in the way, though. One of the strongest reactions of late has been against the use of sugar and artificial sweeteners within food and beverage products. FMCG Gurus’ “The War on Sugar in 2021” global report indicated natural formulations and sugar content are the third- and fourth-most likely attributes to affect purchasing decisions.
Natural alternatives to sugar are a logical solution—and even better if they deliver additional functional benefits while offering a taste profile consumers desire. When it comes to sweetness factor, many natural sweeteners are as sweet as or more so than commonly used sugars made from sugar beets or sugar cane. Additionally, with increased awareness of the potential effect sugars have on weight gain and blood sugar, “Global Natural Sweeteners Market Insights” from Valuates Reports contends low- and no-calorie natural sweeteners have experienced a steady increase in demand and growth. Monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii), also called Luo Han Guo, is one such sweetener that ticks all the boxes and gives consumers what they are looking for without compromises.
The ingredient is a good source of mogrosides, a sweetening compound containing glucose and glycosides, and is already one of the most widely used natural sweeteners available in the U.S. Monk fruit is calorie-free and can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, even with a very low glycemic index. And while those characteristics are favorable to consumers, monk fruit’s composition has the potential to deliver additional functional benefits as well.
As previously mentioned, mogrosides within the monk fruit provide sweetening capacity, but mogroside benefits go even further to support better health outcomes. Research into mogroside V—the primary mogroside present in monk fruit—found it has strong antioxidant capacity, effectively scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS) to help the body’s efforts against oxidative stress.2 Monk fruit is also able to help consumers better manage blood glucose levels in two ways. As a passive benefit because of its low glycemic index, consumers do not need to worry about blood glucose spikes as they would with sugar.3 But monk fruit’s mogrosides take this a step further by also supporting the functions that secrete insulin into pancreatic beta cells and thereby actively help to regulate blood glucose levels.4
Monk fruit’s benefits extend beyond the mogrosides. Within the last couple years, monk fruit pomace was found to deliver not just a sweet taste, but also dietary fiber. Only about 5% of U.S. consumers meet daily fiber intake recommendations from their regular diet.5 Incorporating monk fruit pomace into food and beverages could offer a sweet boost of functional fiber. And by improving fiber intake, consumers will also potentially improve digestive health, blood glucose regulation and heart health without having to give up on good-tasting products.6,7
Monk fruit may allow consumers to continue to enjoy the products they love while offering potential functional benefits. The pandemic made consumers hyper-aware of their health, and monk fruit’s ability to provide a clean and strong flavor profile accompanied by potential antioxidant, blood glucose, cardiovascular and digestive support makes it among the best contenders for their attention.
The digital magazine “Sweet innovation: Natural solutions in sugar reduction” contains related content on this niche. Click the link to read more.
As a third-generation ingredient manufacturer for the natural products industry, Rob Brewster is proud to be part of the health and wellness world. He followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, helping their company Brewster Foods grow since he joined in the 1990s, and then partnering with Syntech to form Ingredients by Nature, a world leader of citrus bioflavonoids and extracts. As president, Brewster takes pride in citrus science and continues to invest heavily in citrus flavonoid science for condition-specific applications and holistic wellness.
1 Saraiva A et al. “Natural Sweeteners: The Relevance of Food Naturalness for Consumers, Food Security Aspects, Sustainability and Health Impacts.” Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(17):6285.
2 Chen WJ et al. “The antioxidant activities of natural sweeteners, mogrosides, from fruits of Siraitia grosvenori.” Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2007;58(7):548-556.
3 Sun Z et al. “[Synthetic biology for the synthesis of mogroside V - a review.]” Sheng Wu Gong Cheng Xue Bao. 2020;36(10):2017-2028. Chinese.
4 Zhou Y et al. “Insulin secretion stimulating effects of mogroside V and fruit extract of luo han kuo (Siraitia grosvenori Swingle) fruit extract.” Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2009;44(11):1252-1257.
5 Quagliani D and Felt-Gunderson P. “Closing America's Fiber Intake Gap: Communication Strategies From a Food and Fiber Summit.” Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016;11(1):80-85.
6 Slavin J. “Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits.” Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-1435.
7 Kaczmarczyk MM et al. “The health benefits of dietary fiber: beyond the usual suspects of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.” Metabolism. 2012;61(8):1058-1066.