Duiven, the Netherlands—Luo han guo, a natural, low-calorie sweetener that has been used in China for hundreds of years, may soon become more popular here in the States, according to the Innova Markets Insights’ database, which tracks new product activity.

The group says interest in this natural sweetener (also called monk fruit) has spiked after a large producer of luo han guo (BioVittoria) gained generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status for its raw material in early 2010. Innova confirms that most U.S. product launches have been liquid supplements, encapsulated supplements and medicinal teas, but predicts processed foods sweetened with luo han guo may be on the way.  In 2009, Celestial Seasons and Kashi launched food products (tea and oat cereal) with a luo han fruit concentrate and other food companies may soon follow their lead.

Innova predicts luo han guo may follow in the footsteps of the popular sweetener, stevia, which received GRAS status in 2008 and is one of the fastest growing new sweeteners on the market. Stevia and its fractionated forms are used in supplements, soft drinks, juices and yogurts, and also as a table sweetener.

But, the group admits that stevia had been used for years in countries like Japan by major food and drinks companies in their processed goods. Luo han guo does not have the same precedent to date.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2010 (published ahead of print on August 28, 2010)