Steep decline in sweetener consumption highlighted by U.S.D.A.

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON — Per capita availability of caloric sweeteners has dropped more than 20 lbs from its 1999 peak, according to data issued recently by the Economic Research Service of the U.S.D.A.

In commentary accompanying an infographic tracing domestic sweetener supply trends since the mid-1960s, the U.S.D.A. said 138.9 lbs of caloric sweeteners, including cane/beet sugar, corn sweeteners, honey and edible syrups, were available per capita in 2012. The figure was down 14% from the peak figure of 160.9 lbs in 1999. The U.S.D.A. described its food availability data as “a popular proxy for actual consumption.”

The drop in sweetener availability has come nearly entirely from corn sweeteners, which include high-fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup and dextrose. Per capital availability in 2012 was 61.4 lbs, down 26% from 83.1 lbs in 1999.

Corn sweeteners took a big bite out of the caloric sweetener market share held by refined cane/beet sugar from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. Since 1983 though, sugar availability has been fairly flat, averaging 66 lbs per capita, down 35% from 102.3 lbs in 1972.

While corn sweetener availability eclipsed combined cane/beet sugar availability in the 1980s and widened its market share margin in the 1990s, sugar availability overtook corn sweeteners again in 2010.

Commenting on the much smaller markets for honey, the E.R.S. noted the per capita availability has held up well, at 6.9 lbs in 2012, despite an 85% rise in the average retail price since 2007.
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