Canadean forecasts 5% growth in demand for calorie-free sweeteners over next three years

Taste continues to be the main obstacle for the natural sweetener

The non-caloric sweeteners market is dominated by Sucralose (26.5%), Aspartame (15.9%), Acesulfame K (14.7%), Saccharin (13.2%), and Cyclamate (5.9%), followed by newcomers such as Stevia (5.7%). Aspartame is on a decline, at minus 0.9% growth annually in the global market over the coming three years. The highest growth, as well as significant volumes, is observed in Acesulfame K and Sucralose within soft drinks. Stevia sweeteners still have some way to go before reaching this league

Concerns about obesity and related health problems plus sugar taxes in many countries have stimulated the market for non-caloric sweeteners, a new report from Canadean has found. In particular, natural plant-derived sweeteners such as Stevia are becoming popular as more people look for natural products.

The report, Non Caloric Sweeteners – Market Trends and Insights, forecasts that as a result of increased focus on sugar calories, the consumer demand for non-caloric sweeteners will grow 5% a year until 2017. Of the 360 new products in 2013, 38.3% contained non-caloric sweeteners.

According to the report, caloric sugar still holds the majority of the global sweetness market: in 2013 the world consumed an estimated 180 million tons of sugar from canes and beets plus high-fructose corn syrup/HFCS. This represents 80% of the overall sugar and sweeteners market. Low or non-caloric sweeteners represent the remaining 20%, or 34 million tons in sugar equivalents.

Stevia may be more suitable for certain products such as teas, nectars, and juices

The food trend towards wholefoods and natural products has also led to growing demand for natural sweeteners made from herbs. In 2013, approximately 20% of new non-caloric soft drinks were based on natural sweeteners, and Canadean expects this category to continue showing impressive growth with plenty of potential, particularly in North America, Europe, and Japan. Although the category is growing, it is rising from low volumes and it will take years to catch up with the market leaders.

In 2013 the soft drinks industry consumed nearly 700 tons of Stevia ingredients compared with 12,300 tons of Aspartame, or 8,700 tons of Acesulfame K. The largest natural sweetener on the market is Stevia, but Canadean also finds great potential in other herbal-sweeteners such as monk fruit.

Natural sweeteners are still in their exploratory phase, and many product manufacturers are still struggling to find the right balance of steviol glycoside in their drinks. Although new technologies are constantly being developed to improve these products, taste continues to be the main obstacle for the natural sweetener. Not everyone embrace the distinctive taste and some drinks brands, such as Glaceau Vitamin Water, combine the sweetener with sugar. In the US, Coca-Cola has had to reverse engineer the Vitamin Waters back to the original composition because Americans do not appreciate the Stevia taste.

But Stevia has its advantages, says Karin Nielsen, ingredient analyst at Canadean: 'Stevia may be more suitable for certain products such as teas, nectars, and juices, as it has an ability to enhance the taste of the natural ingredients.'