Interest in natural products has increased rapidly in recent years, with the advent of more widespread stevia use expected to add to the sector’s growth. ‘Natural’ was the number one claim for new product launches last year, according to market research organization Mintel. But JK Sucralose has said that although most manufacturers are looking to natural sweeteners as a way to boost their range of premium products, artificially sweetened foods and beverages will continue to form the bulk of their portfolio.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA.com through an interpreter, the company’s CEO Alex An said that stevia does not pose a threat to the sucralose market.
“For natural products, if food companies want to use stevia, it is not just stevia that has to be natural. All the ingredients have to be natural. This means there is a very high cost involved.”
He added that this means manufacturers have to think in terms of the whole, rather than in terms of one specific ingredient or another – even though sweeteners companies may tend to think in terms of sweeteners alone.
“It is not a competition between stevia and sucralose – it is a competition between natural products and other products,” he said. “The cost means stevia is for a premium product.”
In terms of sucralose, the company envisages that its cost will come down significantly over the coming years, as more companies expand production. Currently it costs around $100 a kilo, but JK claims that this could decrease by up to a third.
This expectation follows the decision of an International Trade Committee panel earlier this year that four Chinese manufacturers had not infringed existing patent rights for the sweetener, effectively broadening the market.
An said that in the long term, as more sucralose is produced, half of it would be likely to replace sugar, with the other half replacing other sweeteners.
“The cost of sucralose compared to other sweeteners is still a little bit high,” he said. “In the early stages it will be easier to replace sugar and as its cost decreases it will replace other sweeteners more.”
Sucralose is already the most widely used high intensity sweetener in food and beverages by value in the US.