Native to Southeast Asia, monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, produces a sweetener about 150-220 times sweeter than sugar, but a great deal of focus has been on its potential to be blended with other natural sweeteners, including sugar, stevia or fruit concentrates. As part of a blend, monk fruit extracts have attracted attention from sweetener giants including Tate & Lyle and Imperial Sugar Company (ISC) for their potential in reformulating foods and beverages with reduced calories and different taste profiles.
In April, Imperial Sugar launched a monk fruit/sugar sweetener blend under the NatureWise brand.
“With the debut of NatureWise Monk Fruit Sweetener, it became imperative that ISC secure a reliable source of high-quality monk fruit,” the company said.
Oregon-based Amax NutraSource has an exclusive contract with a Chinese manufacturer of FDA GRAS monk fruit, and is one of only two distributors of GRAS monk fruit in the United States, according to Imperial Sugar.
Senior director of engineering and specialty sales for ISC Thomas Rathke said: “The market opportunities for monk fruit are tremendous as manufacturers of beverages and functional foods continue to seek alternatives to traditional, artificial sweeteners.”
Amax NutraSource’s partner in China produces a dry extract concentrate with high levels of mogroside V, monk fruit’s sweet component, at 55% of the extract. This extract is about 220 times sweeter than sugar, ISC said.
Commenting on the partnership with ISC, president of Amax NutraSource Larry Martinez said: “With their patented compound crystallization process and the tremendous support and technology from our valued partnership in China, I believe Imperial Sugar will bring an exciting lower calorie sweetener to the market which consumers have been demanding.”
Imperial Sugar is not the only sweetener company to have entered into a supply partnership with a monk fruit supplier in recent months. Back in April, Tate & Lyle announced that it had entered a five-year exclusive global distribution and marketing agreement with New Zealand-based monk fruit supplier BioVittoria.