Could A Monkfruit-based Sweetener Be The Next Stevia?

Senomyx, a San Diego-based company, is developing a natural, zero-calorie, high-intensity sweetener called siratose that's extracted from monkfruit, according to Food Business News. The company is seeking partners and hopes the product will receive a Generally Recognized As Safe notification by 2019. 

Siratose is soluble and stable in low PH products like carbonated soft drinks. The sweetener also has a stronger potency and better overall taste quality than stevia extracts. 

The company analyzed more than 3 million samples of natural sweeteners since 2010 for taste and physical properties before concluding that siratose was the best option.

As people reduce their sugar consumption, food and beverage manufacturers are scrambling to reformulate products with natural sweeteners that meet consumer demand for both health and sweetness. This prospect is especially pressing for the beverage industry, which has already experienced major sales losses following the implementation of local soda taxes. Many people are even more suspicious of artificial sweeteners like aspartame following research showing the zero-calorie artificial sweeteners could actually promote weight gain. 

This has opened the door for stevia. The plant-based sugar substitute is the leading natural alternative sweetener. Industry experts expect the stevia market to explode in the wake of the newly released Nutrition Facts label, which will require all food and beverage products to explicitly list all added sugars. Stevia is also highly sustainable, and can be grown almost anywhere. The extract isn't without drawbacks, however. 

Stevia-based formulations still need to include sugar in order to mask the extract's bitter aftertaste. Developers are working to find the best version that will be accepted by the most consumers. 

Does siratose have the power to disrupt stevia's growing empire? Possibly. If Senomyx is able to process a stable monkfruit derivative that is sweeter and better-tasting than stevia, beverage manufacturers may opt to reformulate with siratose so they can reduce the level of added sugars in their soft drinks. It will be interesting to see if any beverage manufacturers partner with Senomyx to develop this sweetener and get a corner on the market before it opens. This could be a good indication of the industry's faith in the nascent product.