WESTCHESTER, ILL. — Despite low consumer awareness, allulose is ringing up impressive growth numbers.

The sweetener boasted a compound annual growth rate of 211% in North America from 2017 to 2020, according to Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands. In North America, the number of new products with allulose tripled in 2020 when compared to 2019, added Tom Vierhile, vice president of strategic insights, North America for Innova, in a May 26 webinar sponsored by Westchester-based Ingredion, Inc. and hosted by Food Business News.

Awareness of allulose still lags when compared to other sweeteners. Consumer familiarity of allulose was 20% in Mexico and 16% in the United States in a 2020 Innova trends survey, which compared to stevia at 65% in Mexico and 46% in the United States.

“We’re really encouraging brands to consider including a brief educational description of allulose on their product packaging to encourage awareness and trial,” said Afrouz Naeini, regional platform leader, sugar reduction and specialty sweeteners for Ingredion.

Allulose is a “rare sugar,” meaning it is found in nature in small quantities. It is 70% as sweet as sugar and provides functional bulking, browning and freeze-point depression in formulations similar to sugar, according to Ingredion, which offers allulose under the Astraea brand.

Interest in allulose began to increase in 2019 when the US Food and Drug Administration ruled it did not count as sugar or added sugar in the Nutrition Facts Label and that it was 0.4 calories per gram. Sugar is 4 calories per gram.

Ingredion studies have pointed out the need for consumer education. In one, consumers were made aware of allulose on the labels of products and asked whether they found the ingredient acceptable. Then consumers were told of allulose’s benefits and asked again whether they found it acceptable. The study included 200 participants for each category. Each participant was involved in only one category.

In the example of a nutritional snack bar, 48% found allulose to be either very acceptable or somewhat acceptable when shown the sweetener on the ingredient list. After consumers were told of allulose’s benefits, the percentage jumped to 95%.  Percentages in other categories were 59% and 93% for ready-to-drink nutritional beverages, 64% and 97% for reduced-sugar ice cream, and 47% and 92% for gummy-type products/candy.

More on the webinar may be found here.