People looking for no-calorie, natural sweeteners have a new option: monk fruit. Also known by its Chinese name, luo han guo, monk fruit comes from a vine native to China, and has long been known in the East for its sweet flavor.
More than 30 products containing monk fruit have been launched in North America this year, up from just four in 2011, according to Food Navigator-USA.
Rising interest in monk fruit comes as industry research from Datamonitor shows that new product launches containing the natural sweetener stevia have cooled in recent years, falling from 269 products in 2011 to between 230 and 240 this year.
Stevia remains on top of the natural sweetener market for now, with its derivatives used in beverages like Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), but Datamonitor noted that monk fruit appeared to be pursuing the same line of growth, appearing in a number of beverages, including teas.
Researchers note monk fruit is easier to use as a sweetener, lacking some taste issues presented by stevia. Consumers were also more likely to be attracted to the idea of a sweetener derived from a fruit, compared to stevia, which is made from leaves of a plant native to tropical regions of the Americas.