Cleared previously by some European countries the amendment to the 1994 EU Sweeteners Directive (94/35/EC) published on Thursday in Europe's Official Journal paves the way for harmonisation at a European level, permitting the use of sucralose (E955) throughout the EU25.
As well as providing harmonisation for the movement of sucralose between European member states, the rules open up new sales routes for suppliers of this sweetener 600 times sweeter than sugar. A market holding considerable potential as rising health concerns drive consumers towards sugar free products.
A major player on the US market, sucralose supplier McNeil Nutritionals - that claims 3500 food and beverage products use its Splenda sucralose brand - will be gearing up to increase supplies to the European market.
"This amendment will allow us to replicate the exceptional success in currently-approved markets of the Splenda brand via strong global expansion initiatives," said Colin Watts, president of McNeil Nutritionals.
Sucralose has a longer shelf life than its synthetic predecessors, which deteriorate chemically over time. This has positive implications for retailers: they don't have to worry about the product going bad.
The engineered ingredient is heat-stable with three of its hydroxyl groups replaced with chlorine, resulting in a 0-cal/gram sweetener that is not digested. The myth would have it that British sugar company Tate & Lyle, looking for ways to use sucrose as a chemical intermediate, was synthesising and testing halogenated sugars. A student, Shashikant Phadnis, misunderstood a request for "testing" of a chlorinated sugar as a request for "tasting," leading to the discovery in 1976 that many chlorinated sugars are sweet with potencies some hundreds or thousands of times as great as sucrose.
Sucralose was developed jointly by McNeil Specialty Products company and Tate & Lyle. The product now has approval for use in foods and beverages in more than 40 countries including Canada, Australia and Mexico.
A 2002 report from market analysts Mintel claims that while there is robust growth within the new sucralose-based artificial sweeteners, sales are not yet of sufficient size to affect overall industry trends. Retail sales of sugar and artificial sweeteners in the US were weak between 1997 and 2002, with industry sales decreasing from $2.7 billion to $2.5 billion. In 2000, however, the rate of contraction in sales slowed. Mintel estimates 2002 year end sales to be nearly unchanged from 2001.
But according to the Calorie Control Council the market is very much present for low-cal table top sweeteners and ingredients with recent research showing that more than 163 million adult Americans consume low-calorie, sugar-free foods and beverages.