‘Natural’ sweetener substitutes continuing growth, Canadean report

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th October 2014
Rising demand for natural sweeteners, including stevia, Canadean
Rising demand for natural sweeteners, including stevia, Canadean

The concerns about obesity and related health problems plus sugar taxes in many countries have stimulated the market for non-caloric sweeteners, according to market research organisation Canadean.

According to Canadean, natural plant-derived sweeteners such as Stevia proving particularly popular as more people look for natural products.

As a result of increased focus on sugar calories, the consumer demand for non-caloric sweeteners is projected to grow 5 per cent a year until 2017. Of the 360 new products picked up in 2013, 38.3 per cent contained non-caloric sweeteners.

Canadean found that caloric sugar still held the majority of the global sweetness market: In 2013 the world consumed an estimated 180 million tons of sugar from canes and beets plus high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This represented 80 per cent of the overall sugar and sweeteners market. Low or non-caloric sweeteners represented the remaining 20 per cent, or 34 million tons in sugar equivalents.

The natural sweeteners are coming

The food trend towards whole foods and natural products has also meant a growing demand for natural sweeteners made from herbs, Canadean found.

In 2013, approximately 20 per cent of new non-caloric soft drinks were based on natural sweeteners, and Canadean said it expected this category to continue showing impressive growth, with lots of potential in particularly North America, Europe, and Japan.

Although the category is growing, Canadean said it was rising from low volumes and it would take years to catch up with the market leaders.

In 2013 the soft drinks industry consumed only close to 700 tons of Stevia ingredients, versus 12,300 tons of Aspartame, or 8,700 tons of Acesulfame K. The largest natural sweetener on the market is Stevia, but Canadean also found great potential in other herbal-sweeteners such as monk fruit.

A matter of taste

Canadean said natural sweeteners were still in their “exploratory phase”, and many product manufacturers were still struggling to find the right balance of steviol glycoside in their drinks.

Although new technologies are being made to constantly improve these products, taste continued to be the main obstacle for the natural sweet. Not everyone embraced the distinct taste of natural sweeteners and some drinks brands, such as Glaceau Vitamin Water, have combined the sweetener with sugar.

In the US, Coca-Cola has had to reverse engineering the Vitamin Water back to the original composition as they realised the Americans didn’t appreciate the Stevia taste.

However, Karin Nielsen, Ingredient Analyst at Canadean said Stevia had its advantages.

“Stevia may be more suited for certain products such as teas, nectars, and juices, as it has an ability to enhance the taste of the natural ingredients,” Ms Nielsen said.