Mogrosides – the EU will soon decide on the plant-based sweetener

Mogrosides are sweeteners derived from monk fruit – a relative of cucumbers, melons and pumpkins. The plant-based sweetener is up to 600 times sweeter than regular sugar. It is approved in Asia, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several Latin American countries. Soon it can also be approved within the EU. In other words, it is high time to get to know the new sweet of natural origin.

8 January 2020 •

A new plant-based sweet­en­er is under review in the EU: Monk fruit extract whose sweet­ness comes from sub­stances com­mon­ly called mogro­sides. It is expect­ed to be approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) late 2020 och ear­ly 2021. Therefore, it is time for food geeks and pro­fes­sion­als to get acquaint­ed with the new sweet­en­er of nat­ur­al origin.

Mogrosides give monk fruit its sweetness

In the south­ern parts of China and the north­ern parts of Thailand, the Buddhist monks cul­ti­vat­ed a plant, whose fruits have an intense­ly sweet taste. In Chinese, the fruit is called Luo Han Guo, mean­ing monk fruit. The intense sweet­ness comes from sub­stances col­lec­tive­ly referred to as mogro­sides, of which the one denot­ed by the Roman numer­al for five – mogro­side V – is most abundant.

Monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii) is part of the gourd fam­i­ly, such as cucum­bers, mel­ons and pump­kins. The fruit climb like vines. The round, smooth fruit is five to sev­en cen­time­tres in diam­e­ter and turns brown-yel­low or brown-green when ripe.

The sweet­en­er is already approved in sev­er­al coun­tries. In 2010, the United States Food and Drug Administration, (FDA), decid­ed that monk fruit extract, with a con­tent of 7 to 95 per cent mogro­side V, is ‘gen­er­al­ly rec­og­nized as safe’ (GRAS). In oth­er words, it can be used as an ingre­di­ent in all kinds of foods and drinks.

We are more cau­tious with­in the EU. Here we are still inves­ti­gat­ing whether mogro­sides should be approved as a sweet­en­er or not. Decisions are expect­ed in late 2020 or ear­ly 2021.

The monk fruit peel is used for tea, and the pulp is eat­en fresh or pressed into juice. Like oth­er fruit juices, monk fruit has sug­ars, pri­mar­i­ly glu­cose and fruc­tose. But the intense sweet­ness comes from sub­stances com­mon­ly called mogro­sides. 66 mogro­sides are known, but it is main­ly mogro­side V (read as mogro­side 5), which is inter­est­ing as a sweet­en­er. It is 250–350 times sweet­er than reg­u­lar sugar.

Mogrosides are growing in popularity

It is a glob­al trend that more con­sumers want plant-based food and ingre­di­ents of nat­ur­al ori­gin. This is espe­cial­ly notice­able in the United States, where the demand for sweet­en­ers based on monk fruit is grow­ing rapid­ly. Faster than for ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides. The rea­son is the many use­ful prop­er­ties of monk fruit.

At its best in chocolate and baked products

Mogrosides are con­sid­ered at its best in chocolate.

Mogrosides are up to 600 times sweet­er than reg­u­lar sug­ar. But the sweet­ness of monk fruit extract varies with the pro­por­tion of pri­mar­i­ly mogro­side V. Commercially avail­able monk fruit extracts exists from 7 to 95 per cent con­cen­tra­tion of mogro­side V. Typically, the sweet­ness of monk fruit extracts ranges from 150 to 200 times the sweet­ness of reg­u­lar sugar.

Mogrosides do not con­tribute calo­ries and do not affect the blood sug­ar lev­el. However, oth­er sub­stances in monk extract con­tribute lit­tle, but it’s con­sid­ered negligible.

The bac­te­ria in the mouth leave mogro­sides in peace, and there­fore, the sweet­en­er does not cause caries.

One of the most sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits of mogro­sides is its fine and sug­ar-like taste. The sweet­en­er is also heat-sta­ble and can be used in baked products.

Complement to steviol glycosides

Will mogro­sides, with their many use­ful prop­er­ties, replace ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides? Probably not. One solu­tion is to use them togeth­er. It is com­mon among food pro­duc­ers in China, the United States and coun­tries in Latin America, where mogro­sides are approved. Most like­ly, we will also see this in Europe.

By com­bin­ing mogro­sides, ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides and oth­er low-calo­rie sweet­en­ers, such as the sug­ar alco­hol ery­thri­tol, it is pos­si­ble to meet the desired sweet­ness, taste and mouth­feel for each unique appli­ca­tion. The ele­gant, sug­ary-like mogro­sides can mask the lin­ger­ing liquorice-like after­taste, asso­ci­at­ed with ste­vi­ol glycosides.

The cost is optimized in blends

There are 66 known mogro­sides, with dif­fer­ent mol­e­c­u­lar struc­tures and thus dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties. The most com­mon com­po­nent in monk fruit is mogro­side V, which is 250 to 350 times sweet­er than sug­ar. The sweet­est mogro­side is sia­men­side I, which is 500 to 600 times sweet­er than sugar.

Mixing of mogro­sides and ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides is also done to reduce the cost. Mogrosides are more expen­sive than ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides. There are more ste­via plan­ta­tions than there are monk fruit orchards.

Over the years, man­u­fac­tur­ers have test­ed var­i­ous puri­ty lev­els, and the con­clu­sion is that a puri­ty lev­el of 40 per cent pro­vides an intense­ly sweet flavour pro­file, at a rea­son­able cost. Higher puri­ty lev­els, such as 60 per cent, cause the price to sky­rock­et and the cost will be twice as high. Today, mogro­sides are there­fore usu­al­ly sold at a puri­ty lev­el of 40 per cent.

Steviol gly­co­sides are pro­duced in much high­er puri­ty lev­els – and are cheap­er than mogro­side V. A com­bi­na­tion of both, thus gives a good taste pro­file and price point.

Fibre for texture and mouthfeel

Mogrosides and ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides are both high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­ers. That means that a very small amount of them are required to reach the sweet­ness of reg­u­lar sug­ar. This cre­ates new chal­lenges. If a kilo of sug­ar is to be replaced with a few grams of mogro­sides and ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides, what should fill the gap of sug­ar and its con­sis­ten­cy and mouthfeel?

There are solu­tions to cre­ate the tex­ture and mouth­feel that con­sumers expect. One solu­tion is sweet­ened fibres – dietary fibre sweet­ened with high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er and oth­er plant-based sweet­en­ers. It replaces sug­ar 1:1.

Soon approved by the EU?

We already offer sweet fibres with mogro­sides to cus­tomers out­side the EU. But before the European food and bev­er­age indus­try can use these, or devel­op their own sug­ar-reduced prod­ucts with the help of mogro­sides, the all-clear sign from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is need­ed. The review is tak­ing place, and a deci­sion is expect­ed by the end of the year 2020 or ear­ly 2021.

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