Kiwi company pushing monkfruit sweetener

  • 10/07/2015
Kiwi company pushing monkfruit sweetener

By Natasha Smith

As health campaigners continue to tell us to limit our sugar intake, Kiwi developers have come up with a natural alternative.

The sweetener is made entirely of monkfruit, a small melon grown only in China, and it's caught the attention of food companies.

Monkfruit has been cultivated in China for centuries, but for the first time its juice is being extracted and sold as an alternative to sugar.

"Because the juice is about 20 times sweeter than apple juice you can actually use it to take out the calories in sugar," says MonkFruit Corporation chief executive David Thorrold.

The Kiwi-Chinese company first developed a monkfruit powder that is already being used to sweeten food and beverages in the United States.

The powder is not allowed in New Zealand but the juice has been approved for use because it's considered a food ingredient, not an additive.

Mr Thorrold says it will be used in the future in cereals, yoghurt, fruit juices and soft drinks.

The monkfruit juice is so sweet, just a couple of drops would be the same as two teaspoons of sugar in your coffee.

As the anti-sugar movement grows louder, the sweetener business is booming and is worth an estimated $90 billion a year.

Kiwi company Smartfoods make breakfast cereals and they think monkfruit juice will help give them a competitive advantage.

"Artificial sweeteners tend to have a very metallic taste to them [but] this is a very clean flavour. It leaves no nasty aftertaste," says Smartfoods' Jennifer Barnes.

While nutritionists encourage a balanced diet - as far as sweeteners go, monkfruit shows promise.

"This is a fruit juice so that is actually better than something that's been extracted chemically, but again it's important to look at the whole diet," says AUT Professor of Nutrition Elaine Rush.

The product will be officially launched at a trade fair in Chicago this weekend and developers hope it'll be the beginning of something sweet.

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