Intense sweetener sales jump through stevia boost

by Jeff Gelski
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SURREY, UNITED KINGDOM — The global market for intense sweeteners, also known as high-intensity sweeteners, grew by more than 21% in value terms between 2007 and 2009, according to “The Global Market for Intense Sweeteners” released this month by Leatherhead Food Research, Surrey. Stevia-based sweeteners led the charge, rising from 1% of the world market for intense sweeteners in value terms in 2007 to 14% in 2009.

“The major change to have taken place over the last couple of years has been the increasing significance of stevia, mainly as a result of its rising uptake in the U.S.,” the report said.

The global market for intense sweeteners in 2009 came in at more than $1.49 billion in value terms. Market volume was worth an estimated 86 million tonnes. Stevia’s market share increased mainly at the expense of aspartame and sucralose, according to the report. The United States accounted for 84% of stevia’s global market in 2009.

Aspartame in 2009 accounted for $655 million and a leading 44% share of the global market value. Following aspartame in global rankings were sucralose, $250 million and a 17% share; stevia, $215 million and a 14% share, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), $145 million and a 10% share; cyclamate, $140 million and a 9% share; and saccharin, $90 million and a 6% share.

The United States accounted for a leading 58% of the global intense sweetener market in value terms. Europe and Asia-Pacific accounted for 22% and 19%, respectively.

The influence of Chinese producers has grown steadily to increase supply and drive down prices.

“As patents expire, China is expected to assume an even more significant role as a supplier of intense sweeteners, whilst the level of technological innovation is anticipated to remain high,” the report said. “One possible area of innovation is expected to be the development of more blends of intense sweeteners.”

Asia will have an effect on sucralose supply, according to the report.

“Many in the trade feel that demand for sucralose is expected to maintain its upward curve over the coming years, especially with more suppliers from the Far East predicted to enter the market and therefore challenge the likes of Tate & Lyle,” the report said. “It has been forecast in some quarters that global consumption of sucralose could exceed the 11,000-tonne mark in volume terms during the early part of the forthcoming decade.”

Sucralose volume was at 7,000 tonnes in 2009. Stevia supply, which was at 1,500 tonnes in 2009, should grow, too.

“As far as the future is concerned, some industry sources feel that the stevia market has the potential to reach a value of up to $700 million within the next four to five years, with some of the opinion that somewhere in the region of $2 billion is a more realistic figure.

“Much of this will depend on how successfully stevia-derived products such as Reb A can enter the mainstream. Another factor which may hinder market growth over the next few years is the high price of many stevia-derived sweeteners, which comes from the fact that production, refining and extraction capacity are all at a relatively early stage of development.”

While stevia held a 14% global market share in value terms, it was just 2% in volume terms. Saccharin, cyclamate and sucralose combined accounted for 81% of the global volume market.

“These discrepancies can be attributed to the relatively low-cost nature of saccharin, whilst stevia continues to command high prices since the sector has yet to fully develop,” the report said.
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