Sugar’s Out, Natural Sweeteners are In.
January 16, 2023
2023 will see Further Growth in the Natural Sugar Alternatives Market. It’s been almost two years since governments issued national lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of the strict stay-at-home policies, consumers have been paying a lot more attention to what goes through their kitchens and pantries. With the threat of the disease still lingering, many have shifted their eating habits to prioritise their health and to strengthen their immunity to prevent future ailments.
According to research across the board, sugar seems to be making its way out of consumer’s hearts. Grandview Research’s recent report showed that the global sugar substitute market was valued USD 6.22 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) OF 5.9% from 2022 to 2030. Furthermore, just the stevia market alone is projected to reach USD 1.40B by 2030, growing at CAGR of 8.9%. Stevia is a plant-based, zero calorie sweetener processed from the plant, Stevia rebaudiana.
The key drivers of demand for sugar substitutes deem to be rooted in the fear of lifestyle diseases like obesity and diabetes, and infectious diseases like COVID-19. Diabetes affects 415 million persons worldwide, estimated to rise to 642 million by 2040. COVID-19 resulted in 6.7 million deaths worldwide up to date. COVID-19 and metabolic syndrome are both characterized by chronic inflammation, which is a large result of sugar. Consumer preferences are shifting towards healthier and low-calorie options, which generally includes a reduction of cane sugar.
Artificial Sugar not Quite Cutting it
Artificial sugar for some time, became the holy grail for weight loss enthusiasts. People could dramatically cut their calorie and sugar intake by simply opting for beverages and food items containing artificial sugars like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose, instead of cane sugar. However, numerous studies have debated the health risks of consuming artificial sugars for a prolonged period. Although the research has been largely inconclusive, it’s enough to raise the hairs of the general public. According to a 2020 report done by Mintel named “Sugars and Alternative Sweeteners, consumers are not only increasingly watchful of their sugar consumption, but they are straying away from artificial sweeteners, with 69% of survey respondents having a negative response to artificial sugars.
Two-thirds of consumers are interested in learning about different types of sugars and sweeteners, particularly, the nutritional differences between these. Additionally, consumers are looking for shorter and cleaner ingredient lists-- presenting an excellent opportunity for natural caloric sweeteners like agave and honey, or zero-calorie plant-based sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit to take the stage in households. In fact, the term “naturally sweetened” is currently the number one claim in relation to sugar reduction.
Who’s Reigning, and Who’s Upcoming in Natural Sugars? A picture containing plate, table, food, dish Description automatically generated For caloric natural sweeteners, honey remains the top consumer preference.
For non-caloric sweeteners, stevia is king.
Novel sweeteners like allulose is in the process of gaining regulatory approval in Europe. Allulose presents an alluring opportunity for food manufacturers as it comes closer in function to sugar in terms of texturing, browning and freeze point depression.
However, the high cost associated with the R&D of novel products like allulose will likely leave most developments in the natural sugar alternative market to be reserved for improving cost, efficiency, and the quality of existing products. For example, Israeli Startup Sweet Balance is developing a “natural” sugar replacement with “no compromise” for the food and beverage industry. This is based on the common complaint that some natural sweeteners tend to leave a unpleasant, bitter aftertaste. Their mission is to formulate the perfect blend using natural sweeteners such as monk fruit among others to create a natural sweetener that closely mimics the taste and texture of real sugar.
Demographics & Usage of Natural Sugar Alternatives.
According to current projections, the beverage market will make up most of the growth for sugar substitute application. This is largely due to the rising demand for organic and natural sweeteners in sports nutrition and functional beverages. However, the fastest growing segment is poised to be the health and personal care segment during the forecast period (2022-2030).
- North America is the dominating market for sugar substitutes, accounting for more than 34% of the overall revenue in 2021 due to higher per capita income and increased awareness of adverse effects of sugar consumption. However, the majority of this share could come from the artificial sweetener segment, as most of the artificial sweetener manufacturers is based in U.S (Cargill Inc., Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Ingredion, Nutrasweet).
- Asia Pacific region is the dominant region for stevia, expected to grow at 10.1% during the forecast period. This is due to the rise of diabetic patients (according to WHO, 10% of the population in China has diabetes) in countries like India and China. Plus, China is the world’s most significant producer of stevia sweeteners and has the world’s largest end user market. Chinese customers tend to have a greater preference for natural products like stevia.
- Europe is the second largest region for stevia production, with the majority of competitors working stringently on R&D, helping with the expansion of stevia production across the continent.
- Middle East and Africa witnessed a significant CAGR during the forecast period because of increased awareness amongst consumers regarding health benefits of low-calorie foods. Stevia is poised to become an emerging natural sugar alternative.
One of Ecotrend’s partnered brands, Crave Stevia produces a full line of stevia extract sweeteners with over 28 flavors and more in development. Crave Stevia started out as a humble start-up in Nanaimo, B.C., founded by a couple that craved a healthier alternative to artificial sweeteners. Today, Crave Stevia is exported all over the world, and aims to provide people with a regular healthy choice that doesn’t compromise on flavor nor creativity.
The sugar substitute market is set to expand at steady rates in 2023 and beyond. As well, consumer habits have begun to shift towards natural and organic products, meaning buying decisions will be largely influenced by nutritional labels. “Zero-calorie” may no longer suffice as much as “no artificial sweeteners and fillers”, or “naturally sweetened”. People are also more cognizant about supporting local brands post-pandemic. Manufacturers, retailers, and food marketers could benefit from paying attention to these trends.
This opens a lot more room for natural sweeteners like stevia, coconut sugar, and monk fruit extract to become a staple item on grocery shelves. More demand and competition in this space would also reduce the cost for consumers, leading to more accessibility across the markets to purchase products that are more beneficial towards people’s health.
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