US brand Koochikoo uses a monk fruit extract as an alternative to sugar in its new cookie product and adds erythritol as a bulking agent.
Expensive monk fruit
“We spent a year on the R&D because monk fruit is such a sweet compound it’s very difficult to work with,” brand manager Sally Cox told this site.
Monk Fruit is native to Southern Asia and is 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Cox said that monk fruit cost $450 per kg making it “super expensive”. Koochikoo cookies will retail for $3.99 or $3.49 on promotion. The brand manager said this meant the firm was working on “slim margins”.
Appeal in diabetic markets: Australia and Saudi Arabia
The company is targeting Walgreens, Kroger and CostCo in the US and already has an agreement with Whole Foods Market.
Koochikoo has a sister company in global distribution for natural and organic brands, which gives its own cookie brand a platform to launch internationally.
As well as the US, the product will sell in the Philippines, Korea, Australia, Taiwan, China and Japan.
Cox anticipates that the sugar free appeal of the product will draw sales in markets with high levels of diabetes. She said Australia would be a strong market as around 25% of people are diabetic.
Although not selling there yet, Saudi Arabis is another potential market, she said, because the number of people considered diabetic or pre-diabetic is as high as 75%. The company is working through the regulations in the market presently.
“The diabetic market is huge and retailers realize that,” said Cox.
No EU novel foods
Europe is not an option for the moment as monk fruit has no EU novel foods approval, however, monk Fruit supplier BioVittoria is currently working on a submission.
The Koochikoo cookies are set to launch in Asia in July and in the US in September.
‘All natural’ claim
The brand is claiming “world’s first all natural sugar free cookie”. We put it to Cox that this was quite a big claim to make.
She said: “There is nobody doing what we’re doing not using sorbitol or maltitol,” which are the two most common sweeteners in confectionery and are considered unnatural.
Cox argued that stevia was unnatural because it was typically procured through chemical extraction and usually used sorbitol or maltitol to support it.
Other companies have launched ‘natural’ cookies sweetened with stevia. Koochikoo even uses the sweetener for its own Blissful Chocolatey Brownie cookies.
A German court earlier this month ruled that manufacturers could not suggest stevia was natural on labels. The European Stevia Association (EUSTAS) and the International Stevia Council (ISC) condemned the decision in a joint statement. The associations said Steviol glycosides occur originally in the leaves of the stevia plant and are extracted using conventional plant extraction described in the Regulation (EU) No 231/2012.
GMO free and low calories
The Koochikoo brand launch uses organic unsweetened chocolate chips and an organic strawberry extract. However, the butter is not certified organic. Cox said it was ”financially impractical” to procure cerfified butter and added that it was not a prerequisite in the Non-GMO Project standards.
The cookies also include soluble corn fiber – which gives the product 5g of fiber per serving. Six cookies qualify for an excellent source of fiber claim under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.
The company claims the product contains 25% fewer calories than conventional sugar cookies.