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The natural super-sweetener the Chinese are protecting jealously

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Luo han guo is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar
Luo han guo is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar

Related tags Stevia Obesity China

China’s fierce protection of its indigenous luo han guo vine fruit may be about to bear fruit as demand for mogroside, a natural sweetener made from it, soars across the globe.

The rise of stevia has generated many headlines in recent years, but it is not the only natural sweetener produced in China that is in demand.

Over 180 products sweetened with mogroside were launched in the US during the first five months of 2015 alone, according to statistics from InnovaDatabase. That’s an increase of 140% on the same period last year.

The sweetener is popular in Europe and Japan but is particularly so in the US, where demand more than doubled between 2011 and 2014 and companies including Coca-Cola, General Mills and Chobani are already using it.

And  forecasts by CCM​, the leading market intelligence provider for China’s sweeteners market, suggest that this year the global market for mogrosides will grow another 8% to reach USD65 million.

A low-calorie natural sweetener that is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, demand for mogroside is being driven by the same trends as those fuelling the rise of stevia, according to Wu Hulian, editor of Sweeteners China News​:

Consumers across the world are increasingly concerned about consuming too much sugar, with the increased risks of obesity and diabetes that come with it. However, rightly or wrongly, many are also concerned about the safety of artificial sweeteners​,” said Wu. 

Food and beverage companies are really starting to take notice of this, which is fuelling the rise of natural substitutes such as stevia and mogroside​.”

China sees such potential in mogroside that it has taken legislative action in a bid to protect its monopoly over the cultivation of luo han guo,​ the fruit from which mogroside is produced. In 2004, it banned banned the removal of the fruit or its genetic material from China.

Stevia is currently a far more widely used ingredient than mogroside. In China, only 200 tonnes of mogroside are produced each year compared to around 3,000 tonnes of stevia, according to CCM’s research.

Though this may be about to change. Mogroside’s relatively small market share to date is not due to a relative lack of demand, but rather a lack of supply.

Up to now, luo han guo ​have been grown almost exclusively in Guangxi in southwest China as the fruit requires a rare combination of warmth and shelter from the sun to flourish. To date, over 90% of China’s output of luo han guo ​comes from the Guangxi.

What’s more, it requires a huge amount of luo han guo ​to produce a significant quantity of mogroside, which has led to a supply bottleneck for producers. Guilin GFS Monk Fruit Corp., one of China’s leading mogroside producers, requires over 200m luo han guo ​per year to keep its 100-tonne production line running at full capacity, amounting to around 40% of China’s total output.

However, it is possible that action will soon be taken to alleviate the supply bottleneck. According to Herbridge Media, over 13,333 ha of land in Hunan province was recently identified as suitable for luo han guo ​cultivation.

Consumer group identifies high levels of sodium in Hong Kong seasonings

Hong Kong consumers are being warned about the levels of sodium in popular seasonings after the city’s Consumer Council found alarming quantities in 65 of the best known products.

The Council also found that nutrition labels of seven samples are inaccurate and has since referred the manufacturers to the Centre for Food Safety for follow-up action. 

Hong Kong residents traditionally consume high quantities of sodium in their diet. Indeed, local research has found that average salt intake by a Hong Kong adult is 100% higher than the level recommended by the WHO.

The 65 samples collected by the Consumer Council featured chicken powder, chicken stock, fish powder, fish sauce and soy sauce. Nutrition labels were reviewed and the sodium and sugar levels compared. 

The study concluded that chicken powder was found to be most sodium-rich in content, with 16,980mg of sodium on average per 100g or millilitres. 

The World Health Organisation suggests a daily intake of no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium for a healthy adult, which equals approximately one level teaspoon of salt

One sample contained as high as 21,600mg of sodium per 100g. An intake of 9.3g of that sample will exceed the daily intake limit recommended by the WHO. The lowest content of sodium found in the samples is 12,378mg of sodium per 100g.

As for light soy sauce, 19 samples were found to contain 6,200 to 8,390mg of sodium per 100ml. The average sodium content was 7,113 mg.

More than 21% now obese in China’s capital

More than one in five residents of Beijing are now obese, with the number jumping 3.8% in the last four years, according to official figures.

The number of obese in China’s capital now stands at 21.9%, a report by Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning has reported. 

Various municipality departments have launched campaigns to address the capital’s growing obesity epidemic, including the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports, which has implemented a hotline for people with a body mass index of over 24.

The commission will also organise online lectures and offline events to share knowledge about how to lose weight. 

Bacardi names Zhu as its Chinese chairman in dual role

Bacardi has appointed of Adam Zhu to be non-executive chairman of its greater China operation in a dual role that will also see him as special advisor chief executive Michael Dolan.

Adam Zhu

Beijing-based Zhu most recently served as chairman and chief executive of sports marketing company IMG Greater China.

Introducing Zhu, Dolan said: “Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to capture greater market share and drive our premium and super-premium brand growth in this emerging region​. 

With his longstanding relationships with leading global and Chinese corporations, institutions and governments, Adam will provide greater focus on our biggest market of opportunity: China​.”

Zhu said: “China is an amazing country to do business in. The spirits industry and specifically the growing cocktail culture provides an untapped opportunity for Bacardi and its iconic brand portfolio​.”

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1 comment

lo han guo not permitted in Europe

Posted by Dr John Fry,

You say LHG is popular in Europe, but it is not permitted as a sweetener in the EU yet.

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