Natural sweeteners have a long way to go

by Keith Nunes
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LONDON — Consumers may express an interest in non-caloric sweeteners, but caloric sweeteners still dominate the market. In 2013, consumers around the world consumed an estimated 180 million tons of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, according to the market research firm Canadean. The figure represents 80% of the overall sweetener market. Low and non-caloric sweeteners represent the remaining 20%, or 34 million tons in sugar equivalents.

Natural sweeteners have received a significant amount of attention in the past five years, because of the clean label, natural trend. In 2013, for example, approximately 20% of new non-caloric soft drinks featured natural sweeteners, according to Canadean. The research firm expects the category to continue to grow, with North America, Europe and Japan offering the most potential.

Although the natural sweetener category is growing, it’s rising from low volumes and it will take years to catch up with the market leaders in the non-caloric category. In 2013 the soft drink industry consumed close to 700 tons of stevia-based ingredients, versus 12,300 tons of aspartame, or 8,700 tons of Acesulfame K. The largest natural sweetener on the market is stevia, but Canadean said it sees additional potential in other sweeteners, such as monk fruit.

The small volumes should not come as a surprise as natural sweeteners are still in their exploratory phase and manufacturers are still working to identify the best formulations for the use of steviol glycoside in beverages, according to Canadean.

In addition, not all consumers embrace this distinct taste and some beverage brands, such as the Coca-Cola Co.’s Glaceau Vitamin Water, have combined the sweetener with sugar. In the U.S., Coca-Cola has had to reverse engineer the Vitamin Waters back to its original formulation as they realized Americans didn’t appreciate the taste of stevia. 

However, stevia has its advantages, as Karin Nielsen, ingredient analyst at Canadean, explained.

“Stevia may be more suited for certain products such as teas, nectars, and juices, as it has an ability to enhance the taste of the natural ingredients,” she said.
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READER COMMENTS (2)

By American Beverage Association, ABA Communications 10/9/2014 8:31:38 AM
As our recent pledge via the Balance Calories Initiative makes clear, America’s beverage industry is committed to continuing to innovate low- and no-calorie products to reduce the number of beverage calories consumed nationally. We also plan to offer an expanding line of low- and no-calorie products, as well as encouraging people to enjoy other hydrating options, such as bottled water. At the end of the day, improving health in America comes down to all calories we consume and the activity we engage in to offset intake. This should be the prevailing message, and our industry is certainly working to advance this balanced approach. -American Beverage Association

By Ellia Kassoff 10/8/2014 8:09:14 PM
I believe Coke's Zero Calorie Vitamin Water made with Stevia was one of the worst formulated stevia products on the market. It had awful 'off notes' and was simply a bad example for stevia based products. We came out with Astro Pops Zero Calorie sodas, using our proprietary blend of stevia and other natural sweeteners called, 'UltraSweet' to make sure the taste was amazing and there was no metallic stevia tastes, which come from bad formulations. We were quite shocked with such a large company such as Coke coming out with such a bad tasting beverage. I would never use them as the example at all. Ours tastes just like sugar!