Splenda receives new push in US

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sucralose Tate & lyle

Leading sweetener brand Splenda is set to reinforce its presence in
US consumer consciousness through a number of new marketing
initiatives, including the launch of an official brand cookbook and
the creation of a giant candy apple.

The sucralose sweetener product, manufactured by British firm Tate & Lyle and marketed in the US by McNeil Nutritionals, claims to have consistently held on to the top spot for sweetener sales in the US over the past three years.

And while the vague threat of competition lingers in the industry, Splenda's marketers have made a number of moves to push the brand further into the sight and minds of American consumers.

One such initiative is the creation of what claims to be the world's largest candy apple, which will be unveiled in New York's Bryant Park tomorrow.

Designed to capture consumer interest through a sense of fun, the giant apple will mark the launch of another marketing initiative: a Splenda brand cookbook.

The Splenda World of Sweeteners​, which is due to become available next month, contains around 100 recipes and aims to be a "one-stop guide"​ to using the sweetener in home cooking.

But behind the new initiatives certainly lies a desire to push the parent sucralose brand name in the face of a rising threat to its monopoly of the market.

Tate & Lyle has until now enjoyed a virtual monopoly of the sucralose market with its patented Splenda product. It filed the original product sucralose patent in 1976. This recently expired, opening the product up to competitors, though the company remains confident in the strength of its process patents.

Patent protection of Tate & Lyle's sucralose product Splenda is absolutely central to the firm's success.

Last year the market believed stiff competition was already in place when it emerged that the world's number one retailer Wal-Mart was selling an alternative to Splenda at a 30 per cent discount.

And in January this year, Tate & Lyle's shares plunged after FoodNavigator.com revealed that an Indian company- Pharmed Medicare- claimed to have developed an alternative patent-pending process that would break Tate & Lyle's lucrative monopoly in the sweetener.

The previous month, market analyst Morgan Stanley warned that the stock market was being too optimistic about Tate & Lyle's ability to hold on to its market share for sucralose once its patent expires. Tate & Lyle remains bullish however that it can continue to dominate the value-added ingredients market through innovation, and that its sucralose business remains well-protected.

Indeed, earlier this year the company filed a suit in the US over an alleged infringement of its patented sucralose manufacturing technology.

The group's US subsidiary, Tate & Lyle Sucralose, filed the suit in the US District Federal Court for Central Illinois against a Chinese manufacturing group based in Hebei province as well as six importers of sucralose into the US. The proceedings alleged infringement of patented sucralose manufacturing technology in respect of sucralose manufactured in China.

The company has good cause to try to protect its market share, as the sweeteners market is becoming increasingly attractive. Sectoral growth is pitched at about 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, far out-pacing food industry growth currently pegged at around three to four per cent.

And with growing numbers of consumers turning towards sugar-free and low-calorie products, food makers are increasingly on the lookout for cheap sugar alternatives.

But McNeil Nutritionals remains confident in the strength of its brand in the US. "Enormous"​ consumer demand, it says, continues to prompt it to develop new products using the sweetener.

Just last month the firm rolled out its new Splenda Flavor Blends for Coffee products, which combine a sweetener and a hazelnut, vanilla or mocha flavor.

In May, the firm launched Splenda Quick Pack Pouches, pre-measured packages of the no-calorie sweetener, equivalent in sweetness to one cup of sugar and designed to be added to a pitcher of unsweetened drink mixes.

And next month, Splenda Sweeteners will also introduce Splenda Café Sticks for at-home use, an upscale version of its sweetener sticks currently only available in restaurants.

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