A green fruit from China is being hailed as a potential savior for the soda industry. Diet-soda sales in particular have been in sharp decline of late, the Wall Street Journal reports, thanks in part to the debate raging around artificial sweetener aspartame and to the bitter aftertaste of natural sweetener stevia. Enter monk fruit, reports Reuters. It's natural, tastes great, and just one gram of its extract replaces eight teaspoons of sugar. A few companies are trying it out—Coca-Cola has put it in its Core Power protein drink—but at least one analyst thinks it could become a common soda ingredient before long.
"We feel like we've really cracked the code," says the CEO of Zevia, which sweetens its no-calorie drinks with a blend of monk fruit and stevia, and has seen sales quadruple in three years. But for some, monk fruit isn't worth the trouble. It's expensive, and extracting its sugar is a tough process. Plus, the fruit, about the size of an apple, is grown only in China, and laws essentially confine production to that country. Still, big soda companies may just have to suck it up, even if that means higher prices. "The consumer is voting with their taste buds and concern for wellness," says that industry analyst. "I'm not sure they have much of a choice."