We reported on Wednesday that sales of the sweetener neotame had increased four-fold during the last 12 months. Philippa Nuttall spoke to NutraSweet's CEO to find out the reasons for this success.
The company attributes its success largely to the fact that neotame is now widely available, meaning demand can be met, and that consumer pressure is forcing food manufacturers to make products containing less calories.
The company was unable to share figures with FoodnavigatorUSA.com as it is privately owned, but confirmed that the ingredient is selling well because, in comparison to its rivals, it is cost efficient, costing substantially less, for example, than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
"Neotame is more cost effective than all other sweeteners except saccarin," Craig Petray, NutraSweet's CEO told FoodNavigatorUSA.com.
He added that sales are increasing quicker internationally, outside the US, namely in Australia, New Zealand and China, where the ingredient is being used particularly in yoghurts and fruit juices to replace aspartame or sugar.
The company does not yet have approval to sell neotame in southern Latin American countries, but the northern part of the continent and Mexico is seeing good progress in sales.
"We hope to get approval to sell the ingredient in Latin America south during the next few months," Petray told FoodNavigatorUSA.com.
New products that have recently come to the market that contain neotame include, Kroger's fruit juice and certain powdered ice-teas. Neotame is also now used in some Detour energy bars and certain confectionary products, such as Wrigley Chewing Gum in Australia, Roman Meal Bread line and Herr's pretzels in the US.
"Reducing the amount of high fructose corn syrup in a beverage reduces the number of calories and the cost," said Petray, adding that generally 25-30 percent of the HFCS is replaced by neotame.
Neotame has a different taste profile than either sugar or HFCS and therefore it would not be used as a total replacement, but Petray pointed out that if used at the right level, the ingredient can actually enhance certain fruit flavors.
Taste and cost are the two criteria on which sweeteners should be judged, according to Petray, and the references most often referred to by food manufacturers.
The increase in Neotame's sales has been based from a small starting point, but Petray is confident that this trend will continue. He projects that sales will triple this year and believes they could do the same next year.
"Things could really explode, we are continuously optimistic," he said.