HFCS education slows demand decline

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Nationwide programs to educate consumers about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) appear to be working, as HFCS producers report a slowing in declining demand.

Alan Willits, head of Cargill North American corn milling, told the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago that: "While there has been a decline in that area, it does feel like it is starting to slow down,”​ according to a report on Reuters.

"Our research shows that consumers, specifically mothers, understand that the nutritional profile is in fact the same (as sugar),"​ he added.

Talking to FoodNavigator-USA.com, Audrae Erickson from the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) echoed Willits statements. “We have seen an increase in consumer understanding on HFCS following our nationwide educational campaign. Consumers better understand that a sugar is a sugar,”​ said Erickson.

The association does not track industry sales, but Cargill does track its own sales. According to the company, its HFCS business experienced a 4 percent drop during 2009 in North America.

Fructose science

Fears about HFCS were raised in 2004, when an article was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ hypothesizing that the sweetener could be linked to rising rates of obesity. One of the article’s authors Dr Barry Popkin has since said that he was wrong to pinpoint HFCS as obesity’s major cause, but consumer concern has continued nonetheless.

However, on the back of consumer demand, manufacturers have been removing HFCS from their products, often reformulating with sugar. And the ingredient’s image also suffered a blow when a row broke out about whether it counts as natural, due to a dispute with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the different processes used to produce it. The FDA finally said that it would consider high fructose corn syrup to be natural if synthetic fixing agents do not come into contact with it during manufacturing,

There are three different types of HFCS – one that is 55 per cent fructose and 42 per cent glucose (most commonly found in soft drinks), one that is 42 per cent fructose and 58 per cent glucose (usually used in food products), and one used for specialty applications that is 90 per cent fructose and 10 per cent glucose.

Industry associations such as the CRA and others have repeatedly pointed out that the HFCS used in foods and beverages is not dissimilar in its makeup to sugar (sucrose), which contains 50 per cent glucose and 50 per cent fructose.

Related topics: R&D, Sweeteners (intense, bulk, polyols)

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