Food brands are starting to cut down on sugar, and are looking for alternatives.

Sugar is getting an increasingly bad rap. It’s “the new tobacco,” says one of the founders of Action on Sugar, a recently formed U.K. group. The new documentary Fed Up takes this stance as well, with Katie Couric and the rest of the team behind the film issuing a challenge to go sugar-free for 10 days. Food brands are starting to cut down on sugar, as we wrote last year, and brands are looking for sugar alternatives. Coca-Cola Life, flavored with a blend of sugar and stevia, launched in Argentina and Chile last year and is coming to the U.K. this fall. And PepsiCo is working with biotech company Senomyx on a “taste modifier” that would induce the palate to sense more sugar than is actually present.

Among the more natural sugar alternatives, stevia has become popular in the last few years but has been criticized for its metallic taste, while agave has been discredited as a desirable substitute. Monk fruit extract now appears promising, and In the Raw offers a sweetener made from the Asian fruit, as does Splenda parent McNeil Nutritionals, which sells Nectresse. Both products are zero calorie. New Zealand company BioVittoria, the dominant supplier of monk fruit extract, says brands including Kashi, So Delicious, Bear Naked and Emergen-C are using the fruit as a sweetener. Meanwhile, companies including Nativas Naturals are touting coconut sugar, which has a low glycemic index, and Damhert Nutrition in Belgium is producing Tagatesse, a sweetener derived from lactose.

Although experts disagree on the effects of various types of sugars, the interest in natural sweeteners speaks to the increasingly mainstream “clean eating” trend as more consumers avoid processed foods and artificial ingredients.

Image credit: Code Check