Obesity could spur US fat replacer market, says report

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

High obesity rates and demand for low-fat and fat-free foods could help improve the US market for fat replacement products, after growth slowed during the economic downturn, says a new report from GIA.

Market research firm Global Industry Analysts (GIA) claims that the US market for fat replacers could reach 349,500 metric tons by 2015, in a report entitled “Fat Replacers: A US Market Report”​, on the back of growing health concerns.

“Health is increasingly becoming an important issue in the food additives market​,” the research organization said. “Greater demand for low-calorie, low-fat, and functional foods is driving demand for fat replacers, especially functional fat replacers.”

More than a third of the US population is now obese, and nearly the same proportion again is overweight, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity is known to increase risk of a range of health conditions, including type-2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, certain cancers, hypertension, osteoarthritis, asthma and depression, among others.

GIA said that increased demand was expected to come from the dairy and meat sectors, in particular, as low-fat meat products and low-fat dairy, such as ice cream and spreads, have gained in popularity.

The most widely used fat replacers by volume are carbohydrate-based products, the market researcher said, such as cellulose, maltodextrins, gums, starches, fiber and polydextrose, although protein-based fat replacement products constitute the fastest growing segment by value, with a 5 percent compound annual growth rate during the analysis period from 2000 to present.

The biggest users of carbohydrate-based fat replacers are in the dairy sector, while the meat sector represents the biggest consumption of protein-based fat replacers, and the snack food industry accounts for most industry use of fat-based fat replacers, produced through chemical alteration of fatty acids to provide fewer or no calories.

The market researcher also said that shifting consumer base is a major trend among US manufacturers, which are increasingly looking for a bite of the European market.

“Producers are optimistic to gain a foothold in the European markets, as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of potential benefits offered by low-fat foods,”​ GIA said. “Manufacturers are flooding the European markets with innovative products and technologies that enable food producers to design consumer acceptable low-fat products with taste and texture similar to fat.”

Nevertheless, some American dietitians and health professionals have expressed concern​ that the move toward low-fat diets is an oversimplification of dietary guidelines and, if fat is replaced with carbohydrates, could actually increase risk of heart disease.

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