Monk Fruit Corp., a business specializing in the supply of monk fruit with operations in China, US, Europe and New Zealand, is gearing up for the use of monk fruit extract as a sweetener in the EU. This comes after the Scientific Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (FAF) adopted the positive safety opinion drafted by the Food Additives Working Group at a meeting held earlier this month. “With this development, monk fruit extract has achieved a critical milestone toward approval in the EU for use as a natural sweetener,” explains David Thorrold General Manager of Sales and Marketing for Monk Fruit Corp.
Monk fruit extract is now in the final stages of approval for use as a sweetener in the EU. The next stage is to establish the permitted use levels in the allowed food types. “We expect this process to be completed in Q4 of 2020, at which point monk fruit extract will be able to be used as a sweetener in the EU,” Thorrold tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
While a final approval requires confirmation of use rates and permitted applications, the positive safety opinion from FAF gives EU food and beverage companies certainty that monk fruit extract will soon be added as another natural sweetener option.
“Monk fruit is now growing at a faster rate year-on-year than stevia in the US market because it offers a unique combination of clean label, authentic natural origin, and excellent taste profile without the bitter and metallic notes associated with other natural sweeteners,” Thorrold states. “While EU food and beverage manufacturers have not been able to use monk fruit to this point, we received extremely positive feedback when we officially launched our monk fruit products into the EU market at FiE in November last year.”
According to Thorrold, there is “tremendous potential for monk fruit in the EU.”
“Monk fruit is now the fastest-growing natural sweetener in the US, and we are expecting to see this success replicated in the EU,” he adds.
In the past 12 months, Monk Fruit Corp. has invested significantly in raising awareness of monk fruit and its potential use in the EU in anticipation of an EU approval for the ingredient in 2019 or 2020. “During that time, we have seen enormous interest in monk fruit from EU food and beverage companies,” Thorrold adds.
Monk Fruit Corp currently supplies more than 60 percent of the global monk fruit ingredient market, a market share that is more than three times its nearest competitor. As a result, it is well-placed to comment on how the monk fruit industry will respond to the increase in demand for monk fruit in the EU once the approval is finalized in 2020, notes Thorrold.
He also maintains that Monk Fruit Corp. is prepared for this increase. “EU approval has been part of our planning for the last three years. We have been granted EU patents that cover the most-used and best-tasting forms of monk fruit extract and we have been building our supply capacity on the assumption that there will be an EU approval for monk fruit in 2019 or 2020. We will be adding new processing capacity to our existing site in Guilin, China, which will come online in time for the 2021 harvest when we are confident we will see volume from the EU growing,” he continues.
“Our unique IP portfolio positions Monk Fruit Corp. as the only company that can guarantee freedom to operate in the EU for its monk fruit customers, and the only monk fruit company with a fully integrated supply chain that can be scaled to manage what is expected to be a significant increase in demand for monk fruit from the EU.”
Thorrold believes the timing for EU approval of monk fruit could not be better. “It is exciting to see monk fruit progressing towards an EU approval. As our experience in the US shows, monk fruit is rapidly becoming the preferred solution for natural sugar reduction, and we are very confident that once EU food and beverage companies and their consumers experience monk fruit, they will come to the same conclusion,” he muses.
“We know from our experience in the US, where monk fruit has been approved since 2010, that monk fruit is effective in all food and beverage and food supplement applications,” Thorrold affirms. “After the EU is granted approval, the company will target approvals in South America.
Monk fruit versus stevia?
Monk fruit both competes with and is synergistic with stevia. In particular, monk fruit does not have the bitter and metallic off-notes that some people find with stevia, although monk fruit can also be used with stevia in sweetener blends to optimize cost and taste, explains Thorrold.
Also speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Hans Van Daele, Monk Fruit Corp’s EU-based Business Consultant, expects monk fruit extracts and juices to have significant labeling advantages in Europe. This is in comparison to stevia sweeteners, which are labeled “steviol glycosides.”
“We expect that our monk fruit juice products, which are going through a separate approval process in the EU as a food product, will have label declaration advantages compared to stevia,” he explains.
Looking ahead, consumer demand for healthier, more natural food ingredients with less sugar is expected to grow. “Monk fruit is ideally placed to meet this demand because, among the natural sweetener options, monk fruit is the best-tasting and has the most consumer-friendly labeling,” Thorrold explains. “As a result, and thanks also to new regulatory approvals, we expect that in the next five years’ monk fruit will establish itself globally as the preferred natural sweetener solution,” he concludes.
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