Marifaith Hackett, author of the report, told FoodNavigator that worldwide consumption of high-intensity sweeteners was largely dependent on production of diet carbonated soft drinks and low-calorie food, suggesting the declining consumption of the former may be behind the flat-line growth seen in Europe and North America.
Commenting on the findings of the IHS’ Chemical Economics Handbook report, she said growth was still being seen in South America and Asia. She suggested that market promise also lay in relatively new ‘natural’ sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia extract, as well as those which had multiple applications beyond soft drinks.
IHS said in a release: “The high-intensity sweetener market is a study in contrasts.”
The research, which looked at advantame, neotame, thaumatin, neohesperidin dihydrochalcone, sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame K, aspartame, stevia extract, monk fruit extract, glycyrrhizin and cyclamate, found that global consumption of high-intensity sweeteners for all applications totaled $2bn (€1.54bn) and more than 139,000 metric tons in 2013.
China was the world’s biggest source of sweeteners, accounting for over 70% of global production in 2013. Indonesia was a distant second, followed by the US and Western Europe.
Declining drink demand
Beverages were the largest end-use for high-intensity sweeteners, followed by food, tabletop sweeteners, then personal care products like toothpaste and pharmaceuticals.
“We are seeing a significant shift in consumer behavior and preferences in Western Europe and North America,” Hackett said.
“Health-conscious consumers are drinking fewer sodas. In addition, they are seeking out beverages and foods made with natural ingredients, including sweeteners such as stevia extract.”
She added that when it came to taste, refined sugar remained the ‘gold standard’.
Smaller players on the rise
She said despite this decline growth had been seen with ‘natural’ sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit, a green melon-like fruit from China. However she said that volumes were relatively small, meaning this growth did not always show through in overall figures.
“Last year, global demand for stevia extract was slightly more than 2,000 metric tons, which is quite small when compared to demand for some of the more established sweeteners such as saccharin or cyclamate, but demand is growing in both developed and developing markets, and by 2018, we expect demand for stevia extract to reach 3,000 to 4,000 metric tons annually.”
Diverse application key?
Hackett said that sucralose and ace-K showed “okay growth” because they had a broader range of applications like low-calorie yogurt, and sugar-free jam compared to its counterparts. She pointed to this as a possible key to future growth as the soft drink market declines.