You’ve probably seen a major increase in advertising for monk fruit awareness since anything possibly having to do with weight control is always at a fever pitch in the January of any new year.
“No-cal” and “Low-Cal” sweetener blend products of all types continue to sell well across the globe, but companies are always looking for something “newer” to the marketplace to promote.
(Luo han guo image property of and used courtesy of the Fruit Species fruit blog).
A monkfruit.org website is launched, and television, print, as well as online advertising, etc. is abundant.
Note: Since this blog post first went online, McNeil Nutritionals announced around June 2014 on its Splenda® website that it has discontinued production of the Nectresse® brand of monk fruit sweetener blend. Also of note is that the European Union has NOT cleared any monk fruit formulations for use, nor has either Australia or New Zealand. Health Canada’s Food Directorate has approved “Monk Fruit Extract (Luo Han Guo Extract) as a Sweetener in Table-top Sweeteners” per the Health Canada website. Back when Nectresse was being actively produced, a physician contacted the source of the monk fruit extract being used in the Nectresse blend, Bio Vitorria, and subsequently posted a relevant blog entry.
Original 2013 article:
Monk fruit “no calorie sweetener” blend advertising is becoming much more prominent in this new year as retail availability of two newer monk fruit extract blend products is being promoted.
We’ve previously talked about nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners that come in various forms and blends including tabletop options with color packets from blue (Acesulfame-K or Aspartame) to green (Stevia extract blends) to pink (Saccharin) to yellow (Sucralose blends). Newer monk fruit extract blend options have only hit the retail marketplace since mid-later 2012. A new color packet of an earthy “orange” tone is being used at retail for sweetener blend products containing monk fruit extract.
Although a powdered form of purer Monk Fruit Extract has been available for commercial use, allowing commercial product labels to have “sweetened with fruit extract” statements on them, the retail push now is going full speed ahead now for the newer monk fruit extract sweetener blends.
Commercial Monk Fruit Extract Powder
Monk fruit extract is available commercially as a creamy-white color natural powdered concentrate with nothing else added. Commercial products of Fruit-Sweetness™ or PUREFRUIT™ introduced at the Institute for Food Technologists convention in June 2011 in New Orleans have been incorporated into various cereal bars and granola, etc. Such pure powder forms of extracts can be stored for up to 3 years without noticeable changes in appearance, smell, or taste; and the powder is resistant to spoilage and decomposition including due to heat. Since Tate & Lyle has partnered with PUREFRUIT™ extract developer BioVittoria, expect to globally see more commercially produced products showing up in supermarkets containing monk fruit extract powder including options in categories such as bakery, beverage, cereal, confectionery, dairy, etc.
Now monk fruit extract is being blended with other substances and being made available at retail for purchase by consumers.
Retail Monk Fruit Extract Blends
Cumberland Packing Corp has been promoting its Monk Fruit in the Raw™ product and so has McNeil Nutritionals (part of Johnson & Johnson) been promoting it’s Nectresse™ product. Both retail “no calorie sweetener” blend products are sold in a packet form, while Nectresse™ is also sold in a canister form.
Cumberland Packing Corp also produces Agave In The Raw™, Stevia In The Raw™, and Sugar In The Raw™; while McNeil Nutritionals also produces the Splenda™ product line.
The Monk Fruit in the Raw™ product is described as containing monk fruit extract plus dextrose in a 0.8 g packet; while the Nectresse™ product is described as being composed of erythritol, sugar, monk fruit extract, and molasses in a 2.4 g packet.
The Monk Fruit in the Raw™ product is sold in 40 packet boxes and meets the FDA standard of < 5 calories/identified serving because each packet alone contains less than 1 g of sugars and less than 3 calories.
A single packet of the Monk Fruit in the Raw™ sweetener blend is considered by the In the Raw™ brand to provide the sweetness of 2 tsp of table sugar aka sucrose.
Nectresse™ packets are also sold in 40 ct boxes where each packet holds 2.4 g of product or ~1/2 tsp. and meets the FDA standard of < 5 calories/identified serving because each packet alone contains less than 1 g of sugars. Each packet also contains 2 g of erythritol, a sugar alcohol, which is not totally absorbed into the body and it is not broken down in the same way sugar is, so it is considered to only contribute 0.2 calories/g of energy. Only a small amount of erythritol is digested by the microflora in the large bowel thus not leading to gastrointestinal gas production, etc. Erythritol is typically perceived as being 60-70% as sweet as table sugar aka sucrose.
A single packet of Nectresse™ sweetener blend is considered by McNeil Nutritionals to provide the sweetness of 2 tsp of table sugar aka sucrose.
Additionally, Nectresse™ is also sold in a 140 serving size canister (equal to 70 packets) where the serving size is identified as being 1/4 tsp or the equivalent of 1.2 g of product (half that of a single packet of the product). A single 1/4 tsp serving of Nectresse™ is considered to provide the sweetness equivalent of 1 tsp of table sugar aka sucrose. Nectresse™ ingredients are identified as being erythritol, sugar, monk fruit extract, and molasses.
Each Nectresse™ canister serving is listed as half that of a packet serving, where the sugars content is being listed as < 1 g and the erythritol content is being listed as <1 g.
Always check the serving size on any Nutrition Facts Label as it may not match the serving size you had in mind to consume.
Brief History of Monk Fruit
Note that “monk fruit” aka Siraitia grosvenorii (formerly called Momordica grosvenorii) is also known by its Chinese name of luo han guo, lohan kuo (or in Japanese it is called rakanka).
Monk fruit is a small, dark green-brownish or yellow-brownish melon fruit reportedly initially cultivated in a southern area of China by Buddhist monks back in the 13th century, although reportedly historically the vines the fruit grows on have additionally been found in northern Thailand.
Botanically, monk fruit belongs to the Cucurbitaceae aka cucumber/gourd/melon family.
(Luo han guo cut image property of and used courtesy of the Fruit Species fruit blog).
In China today, luo han guo grows primarily in the warm mountainous northern region of Guangxi Province mountains of Guilin, surrounded by mists and shade. For generations, the vines have grown in the equivalent of family-run orchards (think about the way some grapes are grown in flat family-run orchards throughout the world).
The growing method is changing in terms of the supply chain for the Sweet-Delicious™ variety of monk fruit seedlings, which are being cultivated by a network of growers established by BioVittoria of New Zealand (think PUREFRUIT™) in order to rev up production of monk fruit extract. Historically, highlights of the extraction process would include that it involves harvesting the fruit (both fresh & dried), crushing it, then mixing it with hot water, filtering the liquid, and then spray drying it (that powder might contain about 80% mogrosides which provide the sweetness factor).
Although we don’t read or speak any form of Chinese, we are told that “luo han” per se would translate into English as “monk” while “guo” would translate into English as “fruit”.
Monk fruit contains at least five different mogrosides, with pure extracts of mogroside IV & V being perceived to be up to ~400x sweeter (depending upon the source considered) than table sugar aka sucrose. The sweetener blends are being described as ~150-200-250-300x sweeter than table sugar aka sucrose.
Monk Fruit Extract Use in Food Items
The FDA has designated the monk fruit extraction of luo han guo (primarily mogroside V aka Go-Luo™) as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in both commercially prepared food items and for retail sale in sweetener blends. Research findings in FDA filings have cited antioxidant activity for mogrosides, but more often for 1 1-oxo-mogroside V. Luo han guo has been widely used in the East in China for centuries and also used in Chinese medicine in the West.
Health care professionals will typically suggest that anyone who is pregnant or lactating or has any medical condition should always consult their health care professional(s) before adding or subtracting any dietary supplements or using low or no calorie sweetener substitutes such as these monk fruit sweetener blends.
We only offer infotainment on this blog site. When it comes to matters of your own personal health status, we always defer to and urge you to ask questions of the health care professionals who work with you in terms of addressing your own unique health care needs.
Note that the basic substance of monk fruit extract itself is non-cariogenic (does not cause tooth decay), non-diabetogenic (does not increase blood glucose/sugar levels), and is non-nutritive (contributes 0 calories to humans) with no known allergic responses.
Using Monk Fruit Extract Sweetener Blends in Recipes
Both retail manufacturing firms of monk fruit extract sweetener blends offer some recipe center examples and describe their product as being heat stable for cooking purposes.
The In The Raw™ site has a Recipe Center which features a “filter” consumers can use as the firm also features Agave In The Raw™, Stevia In The Raw™, and Sugar In The Raw™ offerings. Certain recipes do feature Monk Fruit In The Raw™ and we noted a caponata crostini recipe that is different from the eggplant caponata recipe on our blog site, as well as their recipe for stuffed red pepper rolls, ginger chile dipping sauce, a couple of berry recipes, a trifle recipe, and various beverage recipes.
The Monk Fruit in the Raw™ FAQs note that “In recipes for sauces, dressings and beverages, all the sugar can be replaced with Monk Fruit In The Raw.” The In the Raw™ site goes on to state “For best results, experiment by substituting half the amount of sugar in a recipe with the sweetening equivalence of Monk Fruit In The Raw.” A pdf with Monk Fruit In The Raw™ FAQs is available for download.
The Monk Fruit in the Raw™ product information suggests the following substitution chart for cooking: 6 packets = 1/4 cup sugar, 8 packets = 1/3 cup sugar.
The “Recipe” section of the Nectresse™ website features primarily “semi-homemade” type recipes where pre-purchased starch products are used as bases for recipes and include starch products such as frozen bread dough, grocery ladyfingers, or refrigerated pie crusts, although a pancake recipe that is from scratch is shown. Other recipes featured include for preparing beverages, a salad dressing, a slaw recipe or a granola recipe. Nectresse™ is described by the firm as being heat stable for cooking purposes.
McNeil Nutraceuticals specifically mentions for baking with Nectresse™ “For best results in baking, we suggest replacing sugar with our product in small quantities at first, to find the right amount of sweetness for you.”
One caveat to keep in mind is that there will be volume differences using a product such as Monk Fruit in the Raw™ or Nectresse™ to replace x amount of sugar in certain products where the volume of sugar affects the type of product being made. Sugar obviously affects many aspects of baking, so it is easier to substitute one of the sweetener blends that is heat stable in cooking per se, or in baking in those recipes where volume and texture is less affected by the usual sugar content of the recipe.
We’ve previously written about nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners and those “Are You Sweetener Savvy?” blog posts are still applicable. You can also check out a previous post More Flavorful Nutritive Sweetener Options.
The discussion in the Part 1 of 2 in that blog post series is particularly relevant again here since the monk fruit extract blends are sold as mixtures of a small amount of the actual monk fruit extract along with other filler or binder components for retail consumption.
As we have previously mentioned: “Because nonnutritive sweeteners are typically perceived by people as being at least HUNDRED(S) up to THOUSANDS of times sweeter than table sugar is, only very tiny amounts of the nonnutritive sweeteners are needed for use in either cold or hot food products as applicable, depending upon the nonnutritive sweetener’s heat stability. It often simply isn’t feasible to package only PURE miniscule amounts of nonnutritive sweeteners for retail consumption purposes–frequently some type of filler or bulking agent is needed, which may contribute its own properties to the mixture.
As a result, these nonnutritive sweeteners are usually BLENDED with nutritive sweeteners based on the type of application (cold or hot) they are intended to be used in. Among the most commonly used nutritive sweeteners for this purpose are glucose, maltodextrin, and erythritol. (Erythritol is a naturally fermented and crystallized nutritive sugar alcohol substance produced from sugar cane juice).
Understand that means any “packet” or “bulk baking bag” will typically contain less than 5% of actual nonnutritive sweetener content, therefore the rest of the packet or bag is typically primarily filled with a nutritive carbohydrate source.”
Note: The FDA for labeling purposes considers any substance that provides < 5 calories per serving to be able to be listed as 0 calories on a Nutrition Facts label. For those who watch their food intake and use their diet to help control their diabetes mellitus symptoms, a free food on a diabetic diet exchange is considered to be any food or beverage that contains less than 20 calories and 5 grams or less of carbohydrate per serving based on diet information for persons with diabetes mellitus as noted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Diabetes Association.
You can see the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper on the Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners at their website.
One thought on “Monk Fruit Sweetener Blend Advertising Increases in 2013”
A number of firms now produce Lo Han Guo containing sweetener blends.
Over the holidays (when we were on vacation), a question came into the blog owner asking if there might be a conversion chart for using a sweetener blend product containing Lo Han Guo from a firm that we were previously not familiar with. The reader asked how to potentially substitute the Swanson brand of PureLo Lo Han Sweetener [blend] “for raw dates / honey / maple syrup / coconut sugar” per se.
Alas, the reader did NOT specify if the substitution would potentially be for room temperature, cold or hot applications, and whether or not any substitution would potentially be in recipes involve leavening (rising) of a product during baking, etc.
The Swanson company website indicates that the PureLo Lo Han Sweetener product they sell contains: Inulin (which is a carbohydrate based fiber filler); Lo Han (monk fruit) concentrate, which would be PureLo from the BioVittoria firm in New Zealand); and silica (aka silicon dioxide, another filler).
The Nutrition Facts label they provide identifies a “serving size” as being 1/2 tsp. or 2 grams. Since the Total Carbohydrate is listed as 2 grams and the Dietary Fiber is listed as 1.5 grams (which would be the Inulin), then by subtraction, the remaining 0.5 gram weigh must be made up of the silica along with a tiny amount of actual Lo Han (monk fruit) concentrate.
The firm does NOT provide any type of recipe conversion chart, but notes: “Lo Han dissolves best when mixed into room temperature liquids. If you wish to sweeten a cold drink like iced tea, mix at room temperature and chill for best results.” They also state: “It’s perfect for coffee and tea and can even be used for cooking and baking. But beware: Lo Han can be up to 200 times sweeter than sugar. We’ve tempered the natural sweetness a bit by blending PureLo with natural inulin so it’s ready to use in recipes or at the table.”
Based on the information the firm provides, the product seems best suited to substitution for sugar sources in room temperature applications where the volume of a sugar source doesn’t matter, including in any recipe. If you plan to make a syrup, follow their advice and first dissolve the product in a liquid at room temperature and then later only slightly heat it to facilitate use in pouring.
Note that any syrup thus created will NOT have the nutrient quality & humectant properties of honey or maple syrup, so would not work the same in a cake recipe or cookie recipe to improve keeping quality of the finished baked good. The product will also not be comparable in nutrient quality (mineral & polyphenol content) to naturally dense dry dates (fresh whole dates only contain less than 30% moisture).
We have no information regarding how the product actually acts in baking, but obviously it will not have the same properties that sugar has in baking.
It appears that this product is primarily designed to be a tabletop sweetener and substituted with a ratio of 1/2 tsp of product for 1 tsp of sugar in beverages at room temperature.