More products touting no HFCS hit the market

by Staff
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LONDON — Consumers and food manufacturers may be avoiding products made with high-fructose corn syrup. The number of launches of food and beverage products containing no high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has nearly tripled so far in 2007 compared with the full year in 2006, according to Datamonitor’s Productscan Online database.

According to a report from The Hartman Group, consumers have taken out their nutrition frustration on HFCS.

One hundred forty-six new food and beverage products have been launched across the globe in 2007 claiming to contain no HFCS, said a report issued by Productscan Online. In 2006, there were only 54 new products that made the claim, and there were 53 in 2005.

"Until recently, a handful of small companies said their products were free of highfructose corn syrup," said Tom Vierhile, director of the Datamonitor’s Productscan Online database. "What’s new today is that some of the larger pack- Storey aged food and beverage companies are removing high-fructose corn syrup from their products, including Kraft Foods, Dannon and Del Monte Foods."

These product launches are occurring more frequently in the United States. Such products from Kraft include Back to Nature Chewy Trail Mix Bars, Fruit and Grain Bars, and Bakery Square Bars. Groupe Danone’s Dannon Co. has launched Dannon Danimals Xtreme Drinkables Bursting with Fruit Flavor, and Del Monte has introduced the Bloom Energy Drink.

According to a 2007 International Food Information Council Foundation study, 60% of Americans said they were trying to consume less HFCS. In addition, 63% of American consumers said they thought it was "important" or "very important" to reduce processed food consumption.

"Demon ingredient: high-fructose corn syrup," a report released in July by The Hartman Group, Seattle, said consumers are showing a desire to reduce overall sugar intake.

"And as rational or irrational as you may choose to believe, the whipping boy of their frustration is HFCS," the report said.

The word "high" in high-fructose corn syrup gives consumers a negative view of the sweetener, according to the report.

"Keep in mind that what we are dealing with here are consumer perceptions and not objective facts or science," the report said. "We would be the first to agree that some, if not much, of the consumer preoccupation with HFCS borders on irrational obsession, but that’s the reality of the marketplace, for better or worse."

A University of Maryland Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy analyzed studies on HFCS, including literature reviews, commentaries, ecological and epidemiologic studies, randomized controlled trials and animal studies. The C.F.N.A.P., when releasing its findings in July, said not enough research exists to conclude that HFCS contributes to weight gain any more than any other energy sources, including sugar and fructose.

London-based Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. provided an unrestricted grant to fund the research but did not participate or have any input, said Dr. Maureen Storey, Ph.D., C.F.N.A.P. director and a member of the study team.

The C.F.N.A.P. concluded more research is needed, especially on whether HFCS is metabolized differently than sucrose. HFCS-55, at 55% fructose and 42% glucose, is similar to sucrose, at 50% fructose and 50% glucose. HFCS-42, at 42% fructose and 53% glucose, contains less fructose than sucrose does.

"The hypothesis is that because obesity has risen along with the use of HFCS, this sweetener has contributed to the rise in unhealthy weight among adults and children," Dr. Storey said. "This hypothesis was based on the weakest form of evidence called ecological data. What that means is that during a particular time period, two things happened simultaneously. Obviously, many other changes occurred over the last 30 years that may contribute to obesity."

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