In 2012, McNeil Nutritionals, the maker of Splenda and a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, launched Nectresse Natural No Calorie Sweetener but two years later discontinued it. The Splenda Sweeteners website states the following message: 'We are sorry to share the news that Nectresse Natural No Calorie Sweetener has been discontinued'. In 2015, the company stated that Nectresse did not meet business expectations due to disappointing sales, but we wondered what really happened. Nectresse had the following ingredients: erythritol, sugar, monk fruit extract, molasses.
Nectresse was made with a high intensity sweetener called monk fruit extract. Monk fruit, also called luo han guo fruit, is a small green fruit of the Chinese plant Siraitia grosvenorii Swingle. The plant is a perennial vine of the cucumber and melon family
The sweet components in the fruit, referred to as mogrosides, are 230 to 425 times sweeter than table sugar. A variety of mogrosides (named I, II, III, IV, V, and VI) are present in amounts that vary from 0.5 to 1% in the dried fruit
Monk fruit extract has Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in the United States and is also the ingredient in Nectresses's rival brands: Lakanto, Monk Fruit In The Raw and Health Garden. Explore almost 100 products made with monk fruit here.
BioVittoria, the world's largest producer and processor of monk fruit, was the supplier of Nectresse's fruit extract. Biovittoria is based in New Zealand but manufactures the extract in the southern Chinese city of Giulin.
The predominant ingredient (99%) in Nectresse was erythritol. Erythritol is found naturally in some foods (fruits, mushrooms, fermented foods) however, due to being available only in tiny amounts, erythritol is a synthetic sweetener produced via fermentation or an electrochemical process
Erythritol is 60 to 70% as sweet as table sugar and to compensate for the reduced sweetness, it is often combined with high intensity sweeteners such as monk fruit, stevia, and sucralose
The fermentation process was used to produce Nectresse's erythritol. This process starts by isolating starch from corn or wheat. Starch is then converted to glucose via enzymatic hydrolysis. Glucose is fermented using yeast, and the fermentation broth goes through a refining process to result into erythritol crystals.
According to food-navigator-usa, even after Nectresse was discontinued, a lawsuit challenged the Nectresses's claims to be '100% natural'. The plaintiff complained that Nectresse was not '100% natural' due to the the fact that erythritol is a synthetic sweetener and monk fruit extract is a highly processed and refined sweetener.
What Does 'Natural' Mean To The FDA?
Even though the general public perception and the consumer expectation is that a natural sweetener is unrefined and unprocessed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not object the use of the term 'natural' on food labels as long as the sweetener is extracted from a plant source, is free of artificial flavors, added colors, and synthetic substances. In FDA's view, processing or refining does not affect the natural character of a sweetener, and natural sweeteners may also be manufactured artificially by fermentation or enzymes.
The FDA has not established a definition for the use of the term 'natural' on food labels but does have a longstanding informal policy. The policy is not clear and can have different meanings in different contexts. It is supposed to be generally applied across all food ingredients but different ingredients require different approaches as can be seen in thousands of comments that the FDA received when asked for the public feedback.
FDA’s policy for 'natural' claims is based primarily upon the source material, which must be found in nature. According to the FDA, all sweeteners ‘derived from a natural source’ are natural, no matter how highly refined and processed they might be. The sweetener must have ‘nothing artificial or synthetic included in, or added to, it that would not normally be expected to be in’ it. For the FDA, artificial sweeteners are those not found in nature and are synthetically produced.
In FDA's view, processing and refining does not affect the natural character of the sweetener. Processing and manufacturing methods are not addressed in FDA’s policy. Highly processed or refined sweeteners may be labeled as natural. Table sugar and other refined sugars from cane and beet, stevia leaf extracts, and monk fruit extracts, are good examples of natural sweeteners that go through a great deal of processing and refining before they become available to the consumer.
Natural sweeteners may be manufactured artificially by fermentation or enzymes. As stated in FDA's website, ingredients ‘found in nature can be manufactured artificially and produced more economically, with greater purity and more consistent quality, than their natural counterparts’. Many natural sweeteners on store shelves are not directly isolated and extracted from a plant. These ‘natural sweetener-like’ ingredients are synthetic copies of sweet components of plants and are often referred to as naturally-occurring sweeteners. They are synthesized by fermentation or enzymes, in a process that chemically change a material isolated from a plant. They are synthetic copies of their natural counterparts (intrinsic and intact in plants).
Read more on synthetic sweeteners that are promoted as natural in two of my blog posts below:
McNeil Nutritionals is not the only tabletop sweetener producer that came under fire over 'natural' claims on their sweetener label. Cargill settled lawsuits for using the term 'natural' in Truvía products, and Whole Earth Sweeteners in their Pure Via sweeteners.
Brand: Nectresse (discontinued)
Ingredient: erythritol, sugar, monk fruit extract, molasses
Type of sweetener: high intensity sweetener, no calorie
Was sourced and distributed by: McNeil Nutritionals, based in Fort Washington, PA is the maker of Splenda and a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
Mainly erythritol, as filler.
Monk fruit extract as high intensity sweetener.
Other sweeteners: sugar and molasses
Serving Size = 1/4 teaspoon = 1.2g
Contained 1g of sugar and 1g erythritol per seving
0 calories per teaspoon
Made with Chinese monk fruit extract
1/4 teaspoon = sweetness of 1 teaspoon of table sugar
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