New sugar replacement discovered

New sugar replacement discovered

28 October 2015

Monk fruit extract. It’s the way of the future for processed foods. This tiny gem, gifted to us from Mother Nature, is twenty times sweeter than an apple but with the same amount of sugar.

It could potentially offer one of the many solutions needed to decrease obesity and metabolic diseases like type two diabetes and heart disease.

The fruit is a small melon that somewhat resembles a feijoa and is about the size of a small orange. It’s native to southwest China and has been growing there for more than 100 years.

Back in 2006, Old Collegian David Thorrold (Hall House 1979-83) and the team at BioVittoria started developing a fruit extract suitable for the western market.

“We developed a processing method that created a monk fruit extract that is a suitable sugar replacement,” Thorrold explained.

“There was an extract on the market already but it was dark with distinctive flavours that wasn’t suitable for western food and beverage use.”

There wasn’t a good supply chain at the time either that would be able to keep-up with the quantities needed for commercial food and beverage companies, so Thorrold worked to get this up-to-scratch.

At the end of all of this, BioVittoria had a better tasting product and the ability to supply it to the masses. Coca Cola, Kellogg’s, Yoplait and Nestle are some of the companies that have added monk fruit to their products.

“It’s a very unusual fruit. It is very sweet but not because it has more sugar it’s because of a special natural sweetener compound within the fruit.”

This sweetener is ground breaking technology for the food industry. It’s 100% natural without the artificial nasties of other sweeteners on the market.

With Governments across the globe now pushing the low-sugar health message and introducing sugar taxes Thorrold’s product has arrived just in time.

“There is just more and more of a push for food with less sugar. Mexico and France have a tax on sugar and one of the biggest health messages that governments are making around the world is for people to consume less of it.”

But it isn’t just the ‘junk food’ companies that are eliminating the nasty stuff from their product range. Health food companies are all over this too.

“The food and beverage companies put a few drops of monk fruit into their products and less sugar so consumers get more of the good stuff like protein in yogurt.”

Thorrold explained that an American-based company called Chobani launched a yoghurt product with only 100 calories by eliminating sugar and introducing the fruit. It was the third most successful product launched in 2014 with more than 100 million US sales.

Monk fruit is now used in more than 800 products worldwide, since launching in 2009. Not only has the product been adopted by big international brands, New Zealand and Australian owned companies Woolworths and InLine Nutrition are using the product too.

“We’re just getting started in New Zealand at the moment. We only launched it in July this year and have had very strong interest.”

As a chartered accountant by trade, Thorrold’s current venture is far removed from his previous occupation. In 2004, he worked at Beattie Rickman (now PWC) as a financial consultant.

BioVittoria approached Beattie Rickman to raise capital for the project, Thorrold raised the capital through a wellington-based venture fund then joined the company as CEO shortly after. Since then the company has expanded and Thorrold has taken on the position of general manager of marketing. He deals predominantly with customers, regulation approvals and business development in New Zealand, Australia and USA.

(Source: Karen Pickering)