FOODNAVIGATOR EXCLUSIVE

Cargill invests €35m to broaden European sweetener choices

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Stevia sweeteners are natural, zero-calorie, high-intensity sweeteners that are typically 200-300x sweeter than sugar. ©iStock/Heike Rau
Stevia sweeteners are natural, zero-calorie, high-intensity sweeteners that are typically 200-300x sweeter than sugar. ©iStock/Heike Rau

Related tags: Stevia, Sugar, Xylitol, Cargill

Ingredients giant Cargill will invest €35m to expand its sweetener options throughout Europe in anticipation of strict sugar production quotas that will end in 2017. 

The quotas — part of the European Sugar regime that sets limits on production of glucose-fructose syrups and sugar from beets in the European Union—are set to end in October next year.

It means that European sugar makers and suppliers are free to boost annual sugar production as well as export freely to countries around the world.

Three Cargill locations — Manchester, UK, Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands and Wroclaw in Poland – are set to receive the bulk of the investment.

“The locations are equally spread from east to west,”​ Alain Dufait, business director at Cargill Starches & Sweeteners told us.

“It makes a lot more business sense to spread our activities over Europe with a basket of ingredients rather than a ‘one location, one product’ approach.”

Dufait believed that the lifting of sugar restrictions and export trade flow would have a far reaching effect on the supply and demand of sugar in Europe, possibly leading to price volatility within the market.

“The food and beverage companies want to make safe and affordable products for their consumers,” ​he said. “The fact that we offer ingredients within our portfolio allows them to be more innovative and offer their customers a better variety of products spreading the risk in the process.

Cargill, which specialises in using wheat or corn to produce glucose-fructose syrup, also planned to use these raw materials to further expand the portfolio.

“The interesting part is that starting from wheat and corn, we can produce nutritive sweeteners that are great for taste and texture.”

“We can also produce mid-calorie polyols that are used in the chewing gum industry and also low calorie types such as stevia glycosides.”

Cargill’s announcement closely follows that of French sugar makers Tereos, which has already revealed its intentions to up production in 2017.  

Food and beverage customers are set to benefit from a broader range of sugar substitutes, which already include stevia and Zerose erythritol, the zero calorie sweetener.

Market demands

sugar sweet calories weight obesity iStock.com lisaaMC
Consumers have shift to healthier sugar alternatives, including low- or no-calorie versions of food and beverages.©iStock/lisaaMC

Demand for sweetener alternatives that are kinder to the waistline echo current trends within the market that see a consumer shift to healthier alternatives, including low- or no-calorie versions of food and beverages.

“This is a clear and distinct consumer preference,”​ said Dufait. “I believe that the total sweetener consumption in Europe is not growing that much but you must remember that part of that is the amount of sweetener exported out of Europe onto the world market. So we are seeing a demand growth for sweetener portfolio outside of Europe.”

Cargill's ViaTech

Dufait revealed details of Cargill’s ViaTech portfolio, its range of stevia-based sweeteners that utilises a proprietary taste-prediction model to come up with optimal combinations.

“We see in the coming years a big area for innovation in optimising this portfolio even more to combine the benefits according to consumer preferences,”​ he said.

“Not all consumers are the same and have the same expectation from us. The challenge for the sweetener industry is to diversify product portfolios enough so as to cater to certain properties of the ingredients within a product.”

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