At IFT’s annual summit in Chicago this month, Layn launched its SteviUp and Lovia portfolios to provide customized blends of either steviol glycosides or steviol glycosides and mogorsides for beverages, dairy and tabletop.
“These platforms will help customers achieve easy-to-use, and ready-to-use formulated sweeteners based on the different applications, and save them time formulating different options to find the right fit for their products,” Elaine Yu, president of Layn USA, told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Each molecule of stevia carries so many different specs and monkfruit comes in many forms, resulting in thousands of options of different combinations. But we already tried all the combinations in beverages, dairy and bakery and now can give you a predetermined solution that will dramatically shorten the research and development process,” she said.
The proactive approach to blending stevia and monkfruit for convenient formulation and ideal flavor and mouthfeel, is only one part of the company’s multi-prong approach to increasing acceptance and use of the sweeteners.
Driving demand with plant-based positioning
In addition to making stevia and monkfruit easier to use, Layn is hoping to increase demand for the ingredients by addressing several hurdles currently blocking adoption of the sweeteners by some manufacturers and consumers.
The first is consumer confusion and perception of stevia and monkfruit, Yu said, explaining that many shoppers are still unfamiliar with the ingredients and may not know that they are natural and “clean.”
“We have rebranded the ingredients as plant-based instead of ‘natural’ to better tell consumers where these sweeteners come from,” and to more accurately comply with various regulatory authorities, such as the FDA, which has not yet defined a natural sweetener, she explained.
Based on the company’s research, Yu says monkfruit resonates better than stevia with consumers because it has fruit in the name and shoppers understand automatically that it comes from nature. But to help bring shoppers along on stevia, Yu says Layn has added as part of its rebranding an image of leaves to help them understand it is plant-based.
Layn also has education promotions underway to help consumers understand the traditional uses of monkfruit in China as a functional ingredient in tea known for its anti-inflammation properties or ability to sooth a sore throat. By playing up the functional benefits of monkfruit – and not just its sugar reduction capabilities – Layn can help companies evolve their reformulation techniques to align with consumers’ changing perceptions and requirements of clean label.
Layn also is focused on convincing consumers who might have sampled and disliked stevia when it first launched in the US, to try it again because the ingredient is continuously improving, Yu said.
“Many consumers did not like the taste of stevia 10 years ago, and many people still have that image in their head today, but what we have to say is that stevia is very different today from what it was eight or 10 years ago. Now, we don’t have just Reb A. There are other better tasting stevia glycosides out there, including Reb-A, Reb-C, Reb-D and Reb-M,” she said.
The second barrier blocking widespread adoption of monkfruit is manufacturer fear that there will not be sufficient supply to meet demand, according to Yu. But, she said, Layn is actively increasing supply with a multi-prong approach.
First, it has opened a large warehouse where it can freeze and store sufficient monkfruit between harvests. Next, it added a second harvest season so that fresh fruit is now available six months a year instead of only three, and finally it has identified other regions where it can quickly cultivate new monkfruit farms for increased production, Yu said.
Applying for regulatory approval
Layn also is tackling another hurdle holding back adoption of monkfruit – lack of regulatory approval in the European Union and some other countries.
“As a company, we submitted to EU for EFSA approval of monkfruit to be used as a sweetener and we are optimistic that it is reviewing the application and will approve it soon,” Yu said.
While the company waits, it also is offering monkfruit as a juice – so a more traditional food – that can add high intensity sweetness to finished products and reduce the need for added sugar, Yu said.
She added that by addressing “these two biggest concerns of costumers, we are hopeful that larger multinationals will choose monkfruit as a sugar reduction tool, which will help raise awareness of the ingredient and tell monkfruit’s story to end consumers.”