Monatin is a natural sweetener that comes from the root of a shrub native to South Africa. The sweet compound found in the bark of the root represents only about 0.01% of the material by weight and consists of 4 different molecules.

Of these one molecule is the sweetest. Known as RR-Monatin is is an amazing 3,000 as sweet as sugar is the one of interest to food science. It is not commercially feasible to cultivate, extract and separate out this  molecule. However other forms of production have been demonstrated, though whether the resulting products can be considered natural is another question.

It has a superior taste to Stevia or Monk Fruit with a profile much closer to sugar and without an aftertaste. In fact it is considered to have a taste quality close to Aspartame. It is for this reason, and because it can be marketed as natural, that resources have been put into it's development.

It is not yet available commercially, Cargill are working on it's development. It is not very soluble, however this can be overcome by producing a crystalline form in potassium salt. It appears to be heat stable stable, but to degrade over time if exposed to UV light.

Update on Cargill's work here

Obviously if these problems can be viably solved it can be used as a healthier alternative to Aspartame or Sucralose, and a better tasting option than Stevia.

Zero glycemic index. Intense sweetness. Superior taste profile. Not harmful to teeth. Very suitable for diabetics. Percieved as a natural product. Probably safe.

None known at this time. Probably similar to Stevia and it's compounds.

Has not been commercially developed yet though several methods of synthesis have so far been demonstrated. Some appear viable, though the resultant product may have difficulty being perceived as natural.

Sold As:
Not yet available.

Interesting Facts:
It is the sweetest of the zero calorie natural sweeteners and qualifies as an intense sweetener, the term food scientists use to describe the new potent artificial sweeteners such as Neotame.  It also has an excellent taste profile which may make it an acceptable alternative to Aspartame and Sucralose.

Not yet applied for. Unlikely to pose a problem.

Conclusions and Summary:
Though it is early days, this may turn out to be the next big news in the sweetener market. Though it is likely to provoke controversy regarding methods of production and the term 'natural sweetener', it is likely to be far healthier than the main artificial sweeteners.

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
Monatin 0 3,000 0 0

Taste: -------- Good

Aftertaste: ---- No

Concerns: ----- None yet

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