As consumers gravitate toward more health-conscious food choices, countries around the globe have stimulated the market for non-caloric sweeteners in an effort to curb obesity and other health issues.
According to a recent study from market researcher Canadean, natural plant-derived sweeteners such as stevia are seeing a boost in popularity. Consumer demand for non-caloric sweeteners is projected to grow 5 percent a year until 2017.
But caloric sweeteners still have a place in the market. Canadean says in 2013 the world consumed about 180 million tons of sugar from cane, beets and high-fructose corn syrup, representing 80 percent of the overall market.
However, sweeteners are making a big push into the market. For one, approximately 20 percent of new non-caloric soft drinks use natural sweeteners in 2013. According to Canadean, this number is only going to rise, especially in North America, Europe and Japan.
Consumers have long sought out alternatives to sugar, but recent studies and popular opinion of some non-caloric sweeteners’ harmful effects have opened the market to new ingredients. In 2013, the soft drinks industry consumed close to 700 tons of stevia ingredients versus 12,300 tons of aspartame. The largest natural sweetener on the market is stevia, but Canadean says it finds potential in other herbal sweeteners such as monk fruit.
The threat of taxes on sweet drinks has also contributed to the decline of caloric sweeteners.
PepsiCo—which announced rising sales, increased organic revenue and a higher quarterly profit last week—revealed sales in Mexico were down 3 percent, in part due to new taxes on junk food.
Mexico’s Congress passed a measure last year that instituted a tax on high-calorie foods, as well as a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages to combat obesity and address health concerns.
According to the Associated Press, the tax in Mexico adds 5 percent to the price of food with more than 275 calories per 100 grams and one peso to the cost of a liter of sweet beverages.
The news agency reported Coca-Cola experienced a drop in its Mexican beverage sales because of the tax.
The downward trending performance in Mexico is an indicator for why some manufacturers are spending millions to combat similar legislation proposed in San Francisco and nearby Berkeley.
Come November, residents of the two municipalities will vote on whether to institute a per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.
The American Beverage Association has been vocal regarding any taxes or bans, calling them unpopular with voters and hurtful to businesses.
But when it comes to natural sweeteners, it’s often a matter of taste.
Canadean says natural sweeteners are still in their exploratory phase, and manufacturers are struggling to find the right balance of steviol glycoside in their drinks.
Although new technologies are being made to constantly improve these products, taste continues to be the main obstacle for the natural sweetener.
With the increased demand, scientists have dedicated more time to improving the taste of natural sweeteners. Recently, MycoTechnology, Inc. announced a new all-natural process it has developed to remove the lingering bitter metallic aftertaste from the plant-based sweetener stevia.
Stevia is a sugar substitute made from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant. It has been used in Paraguay for more than 1,500 years and sold commercially since 1971.
The new process, known as MycoZyme, uses a mushroom-based enzymatic method to offer a better-tasting product. According to MycoTechnology, this sweetener differs from other products because it has 250 to 300 times the sweetness of sugar with no metallic aftertaste.
As consumers drift toward more of these natural sweeteners, manufacturers are practicing a balancing act to introduce consumers to more of these types of beverages. Recently, PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Company announced new sodas swapping out real sugar with stevia leaf extract. The drinks, known as Pepsi True and Coca-Cola Life, contain up to 35 percent fewer calories.