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Texas Bats Help Deliver New Sweetener

Lucy Nieto
Texas long-nosed bats help cultivate Maguey plants in the Mexican desert.

A new organic sweetener has hit the Texas market. Well, certain Central Markets around Texas for now anyway.

Villa de Patos, a family-run business in Mexico, is hoping to push its sweetness into other stores this side of the border soon. Maguey Sweet Sap is made from the nectar of a Maguey plant – an agave plant that grows chiefly in the Mexican dessert without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

A maguey plant can live for as long as 20 to 30 years, and has gray-green leaves up to two feet long. It looks like aloe. But maybe the coolest thing about the plant is that it's propagated by Texas long-nosed bats. The plant needs the bats for cross-fertilization, while the bats feast on the plant’s nectar. Both species benefit from the relationship. Scientists believe the association is the result of the co-evolution of bats and plants and that the dependence is so strong that one could not survive without the other.

A Maguey plant needs to grow for twelve years before it is ready to produce the sap that is used as a substitute sweetener. “The sap tastes like “crème brulée mixed with malt and a hint of earthiness,” says Mayra Ortiz, director of marketing and sales in Dallas for the syrupy stuff. The versatile sweetener gives a kick to foods and beverages alike – pancakes, bacon, yogurt, fruit salad, coffee, tea, sparkling lemonade, you name it.

People are starting to take note. Ortiz opened up shop in Dallas after previewing the sap to rave reviews from consumers at a U.S. food show in 2012. Now, Villa de Patos is focusing the U.S. launch of the sap in Austin before expanding across Texas and then over to California. Ortiz says Austin’s appetite for alternative foods and healthy living makes the business-friendly city the perfect place to debut the product.  

Head on over to Central Market to give Maguey Sweet Sap and juices a try. Let us know if it sweetens up your day.