All-natural, zero-calorie sweeteners stevia and monk fruit are being hailed as Holy Grails of the food industry and key ingredients in the fight against obesity, in a report by an influential market research group.
In a Euromonitor report published this week, health and wellness analysts tout stevia, also known as sweetleaf or sugarleaf, as a gamechanger that's revolutionizing the food industry, particularly the beverage world.
At a time when whole nations -- Denmark and Hungary, for instance -- have waged an open war on sugary, carbonated drinks with fat and junk food taxes, consumers are also being bombarded with a slew of messages urging them to avoid the consumption of empty calories.
And unlike artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which has developed a bad rap for being an artificial chemical and for its distinct aftertaste, stevia and monkfruit are hailed for being all-natural sweeteners which have long histories of being used in Asia and South America.
"Stevia's natural halo, by contrast, shines brightly, and the ingredients industry is on the cusp of resolving the aftertaste issue. And monk fruit extract has it all going on: not only does it tick the natural box, it is also aftertaste-free," writes analyst Ewa Hudson.
While stevia has been used in France since 2009, the European Commission gave the green light for the use of the natural, South American sweetener late last year.
Stevia is part of the sunflower family and is a zero-calorie sweetener which is 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
Chinese monk fruit -- which looks like a small, green melon -- grows on steep forested mountains in southwest China and is also said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar.