Niche sweeteners are expected to show the greatest growth in the sugar and sweetener category.

ROCKVILLE, MD. – In the $4.3 billion industry for sugar and sweeteners, niche sweeteners such as monk fruit, stevia and coconut sugar are expected to surge, according to a new report from Packaged Facts, a Rockville, Md.-based research firm.

While world price declines, low-cost Mexican imports, high stock levels, and negative perceptions surrounding added sugars have pressured producers recently, opportunities abound for marketers of retail sugar products associated with consumer benefits of health, economic and sustainability. Such sweeteners are gaining favor among some consumers at the expense of traditional white and brown sugars. Products previously offered with limited availability in the natural foods channel may now be found in mainstream grocery and mass merchandise retailers, driving acceptance and selection of sugar alternatives.

“Reasons for optimism persist for marketers and retailers across most all sugar and sweetener types,” said David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts. “In general, we expect the greatest growth and activity areas to be in relation to niche sweeteners, including organic sugar, agave nectar, coconut sugar, honey, and natural zero-calorie sweeteners stevia and monk fruit.”

Traditional sugar brands may benefit by marketing attributes previously associated with niche sweeteners, such as fair trade, non-bioengineered, organic, Packaged Facts said. Convenient formats for on-the-go consumption and recyclable packaging also represent growth opportunities for product developers.

The market for niche sweeteners skews younger, with the highest percentage rate of purchases of coconut sugar, evaporated cane sugar and organic sugar in the past year reported by consumers between the ages of 25 and 34. Conversely, the highest purchase rates of conventional white, brown or powdered sugar were by those 45 and older, according to the report.