Fat reduction is one of the main ways in which manufacturers are seeking to make products attractive to consumers who have health high up on their shopping lists. However as with salt and sugar reduction, this poses a problem for formulators since reduced fat can impair taste - and no matter what their healthy intentions poor taste is enough to turn consumers off a product. According to a recent report from Frost & Sullivan, a concentration R&D on emulsifiers has expanded the application base. Whereas previously emulsifiers' main role was in stabilizing an emulsion, these days they can also be used to improve the sensory characteristics. "As emulsifiers overcome the issues of stability, viscosity and organoleptic properties caused due to fat reduction, they are increasingly used as fat replacements," said the study author. "This has augmented the consumption of emulsifiers, propelling market growth." At a basic level, emulsifiers are made up of hydrophilic and hydrophobic elements, that enable a stable emulsion through dispersion of oil droplets in water. But they can also interact with other ingredients, which gives them functional properties, such as aerating or inhibiting crystallisation. One company that has conducted much research towards building the functional properties of emulsifiers is Danisco, which claims a leading share in the market. Last month Danisco announced that it is developing new emulsifier solutions that will allow manufacturers to use less of commodities that have been subject to big price rises - such as vegetable oil - without compromising taste. Frost & Sullivan valued the EU emulsifiers at US$574m in 2006 and expects it to be worth some $911.3m in 2013, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.8 per cent. Danisco's regional emulsifier director for Europe Dorte Petersen told FoodNavigator.com in July that price increases of at least 10 per cent are expected across the global emulsifier market as a result of rising vegetable oil costs. She declined to give details on Danisco's current price ball-park, but said that prices vary wildly across the many kinds available. Synthetic emulsifiers make up 74.6 per cent of the total volume, says Frost & Sullivan. The consultancy says that lecithin, the main natural emulsifier that has been used since the 1920s, has become more popular in recent years due to growing interest in natural ingredients. Although there is now a tendency for natural to be seen as 'better', the Federation of European Food Additives and Food Enzyme Industries says: "As far as safety is concerned, in principle there is no difference between natural and synthetic additives. Indeed, both synthetic additives and natural compounds are chemicals." It says that the term 'natural' may even raise suspicions, as many naturally occurring chemicals are known to cause serious adverse effects if they are consumed. Indeed, there have been cases of natural additives proving unsafe and, subsequently, being banned. Nonetheless, the entire additives industry is presently grappling with widespread consumer perception that E-numbers - that is, the reference given to additives on food label - are potentially harmful and best avoided. "…It is imperative to conduct awareness campaigns to inform consumers that the objective of E-numbers is to ascertain the safety of additives," said Frost industry manager Sangeetha Srinivasan. Although her comments were in the context of discussion over the natural colours market, the same issues affect other additives across the board.