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Obesity driving intense sweetener opportunities

By staff reporter , 05-Sep-2006

Soaring obesity rates are creating opportunities for food and beverage manufacturers to expand the number of products that contain sugar substitutes, according to a new market report.

Frost & Sullivan's Popularity of Low-fat Food and Prevalence of Diabetes: Twin Engines Power Growth in the European Intense Sweetener Market, suggests that current health trends will continue to drive sectoral growth.

In fact the market analyst, which valued the European intense sweetener market at $221.8 million in 2005, estimates that the sector will reach $362.4 million in 2012.

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with health issues, such as weight gain, and this has led to the development of a wide range of low-fat products in the market. Although taste has been compromised in the past, consumers today are unwilling to accept low-fat foods with an unsatisfactory sensory profile.

"In addition, some intense sweeteners such as Neohesperidine DC and thaumatin are used for their flavouring properties, as they are capable of improving the overall flavour profile and mouthfeel of foods," said Frost & Sullivan research analyst Kaye Cheung.

"Strong projected growth in low-fat and low-sugar foods and beverages market will continue to drive the expansion of the total European intense sweeteners market."

The rapid upsurge in diabetes across Europe will also drive demand for intense sweeteners. Diabetes is a major public health issue - not only is it the fourth leading cause of death in Europe, it is also a risk factor for other diseases, notably cardiovascular diseases.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, the number of diabetics across the globe is anticipated to rise from the current figure of 230 million to 350 million by 2025.

"Sweeteners have played an important role in providing diabetics with a safe alternative to sugar," said Cheung. "With the escalating rates of obesity continuing and the growing number of diabetics, opportunities are emerging for food and beverage manufacturers to increase the availability of sugar-free products sweetened with sugar substitutes."

However, the market analyst pointed out that the media has often focused on the potential cancer risks of intense sweeteners. Such reports covering 'first generation' sweeteners such as saccharin, cyclamate and aspartame, as well as 'new generation' sweeteners such as acesulfame-K and sucralose, have resulted in consumer scepticism.

Frost & Sullivan said that many of these media reports frequently lack a fundamental scientific background, which has added to public insecurity. For instance, the media highlighted a recent study by Soffritti et al (2005), which suggested that aspartame could induce leukemias and lymphomas and other tumours based on a rat study conducted at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy.

"Investment in credible scientific validation studies will help build consumers' confidence in the use of intense sweeteners and limit criticisms from the media," said Cheung.