Natural sweeteners on the rise … slowly

Tuesday, 28 October, 2014

Consumers love the idea of natural sweeteners, but our taste buds are still adjusting. According to the report Non Caloric Sweeteners - Market Trends and Insights, published by Canadean, concerns about obesity and related health problems, plus sugar taxes in many countries, have stimulated the market for non-caloric sweeteners. Natural options like stevia are growing, but they have a long way to go before they challenge products such as sucralose and aspartame.

While caloric sugar still holds the majority of the global sweetness market - 80% in 2013 - Canadean projects the consumer demand for non-caloric sweeteners will grow 5% a year until 2017. Of 360 new products in 2013, 38.3% contained non-caloric sweeteners.

The trend towards wholefoods and natural products has also meant a growing demand for natural sweeteners made from herbs. In 2013, approximately 20% of new non-caloric soft drinks were based on natural sweeteners. Although the category is growing, it’s rising from low volumes and it will take years to catch up with the market leaders. In 2013 the soft drinks industry consumed close to 700 tons of stevia ingredients, versus 12,300 tons of aspartame, or 8700 tons of Acesulfame K. Stevia is currently the largest natural sweetener on the market, but other herbal sweeteners such as monk fruit also show potential.

Natural sweeteners are still in their exploratory phase, and many product manufacturers are still struggling to find the right balance of steviol glycoside in their drinks. Taste continues to be the main obstacle for the natural sweeteners; not everyone embraces their distinct taste and some drinks brands, such as Glaceau Vitamin Water, combine the sweetener with sugar.

The non-caloric sweeteners market is dominated by sucralose (26.5%), aspartame (15.9%), Acesulfame K (14.7%), saccharin (13.2%), and cyclamate (5.9%), followed by newcomers such as stevia (5.7%). Aspartame is in decline, at -0.9 % growth annually in the global market over the coming three years. The highest growth, as well as significant volumes, is observed in Acesulfame K and sucralose within soft drinks.

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