In the EU, acesulfame potassium - also known as the additive E950 - gained approval in 1983; the additive has been cleared in about 90 countries worldwide, including the US, since 1988.
Nutrinova claims that its sweetener, roughly 200 times sweeter than sugar, is used in over 4000 food and beverage products worldwide.
Declining to give precise volume figures Peter Brown, marketing director of Nutrinova, said the firm has seen "strong double digit volume growth for Sunett".
The competitive sweetener industry is enjoying boomtime growth above the industry average as consumers with growing health and weight concerns turn away from sugar-heavy foods and beverages to 'lite' versions.
According to market analysts Freedonia, the sweetener market is set to grow at around 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008: considerably higher than growth in the ingredients industry currently at about 3 to 4 per cent.
Soft drinks are driving demand, pushing supplies for competitive sweeteners aspartame and Splenda, as well as Acesulfame K.
In the past three years new cola launches with a hint of lemon, lime and vanilla have opened up new opportunities for sweeteners. "All the new diet coke line extensions have Sunett in their sweetener blends," Brown tells FoodNavigator.com.
He claims drink makers have opted for Sunett in their blends due to the "improved taste over a single sweetener."
Blends can take a variety of forms, ranging from 40/60 per cent Sunett/aspartame to 20/80 per cent Sunett/aspartame. According to Brown, improving the technology of blending and sweetener interactions has driven developments in recent years.
Technology has moved on considerably in the last few years. We work with customers to get the best taste interaction possible, he says.
Unlike Tate & Lyle, the owner of booming sucralose brand Splenda, and leading aspartame supplier NutraSweet, Nutrinova has opted out of pushing the Sunett brand and logo on drinks packaging. "This is not our strategy," says Brown. Primarily because, unlike Splenda and aspartame, Sunett is not a tabletop sweetener product.
For some years now, and through a flurry of court cases, Nutrinova has defended the patent for its high intensity sweetener. But the issue of patents still looms over future business, and threatens the bottom line. Nutrinova'sEuropean and US primary production patents for making Sunett expired at the end of the first quarter of 2005.
"Which will reduce our ability to realise revenues from making Sunett due to increased competition and potential limitations, and will result in our results of operations and cash flows relating to the product being lessfavorable than today," warned Celanese, the owner of Nutrinova, in its annual report last year.
Tentative moves to sell the Nutrinova business early last year have since been ditched by German chemical group Celanese.
Speaking to FoodNavigator.com earlier this year, a spokesperson for the group confirmed said: "There are currently no intentions to sell Nutrinova. It is considered one of our cash contribution businesses."
Principal competitors for Nutrinova's Sunett sweetener are Holland Sweetener Company, TheNutraSweet Company, Ajinomoto and several Chinese manufacturers.
A heat stable additive, making it suitable for cooking and baking, the sweetener is composed of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, sulphur and potassium atoms. The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the scientific advisory body to the World Health Organisation, has established an ADI of 15 mg/kg of body weight.