Sweetness From Nature – Megatrend Versus Mainstream Business

22 Oct 2013

“All natural” is a megatrend in the ingredient industry these days. Many new innovations are taking place throughout the whole ingredient value chain – from farming and manufacturing through to the product formulators and the FMCG marketers. The trend is being closely observed by both industry experts and consumers. More than half of all sweetener […]

Sweetness From Nature – Megatrend Versus Mainstream Business

“All natural” is a megatrend in the ingredient industry these days. Many new innovations are taking place throughout the whole ingredient value chain – from farming and manufacturing through to the product formulators and the FMCG marketers.

The trend is being closely observed by both industry experts and consumers. More than half of all sweetener discussions in the media, both in traditional and social networks, relate to stevia (58%), in contrast to aspartame (28%) or sucralose (14%). The high communication activity, especially in social networks and online forums, reveals that the natural sweetener concept is often not fully understood. When consumers’ perceptions were tested, Canadean Ingredients found that 79% of consumers knew that stevia is natural. However, 43% and 49% also believed that aspartame and sucralose were natural.

If an ingredient label lists “steviol glycosides from the stevia plant” or “sweetener: E960”, it can be expected to be interpreted differently by the average consumer. The situation is that many consumers do not interpret E numbers as a safety check, but instead interpret it to be that an ingredient with an E number is highly processed and risks being unsafe. Whether the interpretation is natural or synthetic, there is still a long way to go for a mainstream consumer product breakthrough.

Today, 2% of the global consumption volume of low calorie sweeteners in soft drinks is derived from stevia. In the North America and Europe market, 3.2% of non-caloric sweetener consumption is stevia-based.  Although the consumption of global soft drinks with natural sweeteners in 2012 is small, it is constantly growing.

When calculating consumption based on the sweetness index, it is apparent that traditional sweeteners still have a significant impact within the soft drinks industry. One of the main reasons for this can be found in the more polarised consumption patterns of Western markets, which influence ingredient decisions for many new soft drink formulations. Consumers are less likely to consume sweetened carbonates (2010-2012 CAGR 2.04%) compared to bottled water (2010-2012 CAGR 6.39%), and they are even less likely to drink natural sweeteners that may be added to juices (2010-2012 CAGR minus 1.05%).

Today, many consumers are moving to drinks containing high sugar, such as energy drinks (2010-2012 CAGR 14.07%). This means they are embracing the less natural profile of these beverages, especially when they are offered as low-caloric versions, as they largely contain synthesised-intense sweeteners. Over the last three years, aspartame consumption in energy drinks grew nearly 20% in North America and 6.5% in Europe.

In 2012, sweetness consumption in energy drinks for all low caloric sweeteners was 325 MT (totalling a nutritional burden of zero calories) and non-caloric sugar types more than 1.1 million MT (totalling a nutritional burden of consuming 4.4 mio kcal). One might ask if this could become a new hot topic on the agenda for nutritional watch dogs.

Each consumer is different in terms of his or her idea of a perfect healthy lifestyle; it can be quite complex, as there are many different views of what is right and wrong/healthy or unhealthy for them. Today, health-conscious consumers may be seen drinking carbonates with normal sugar on a perfectly balanced and rational basis, and then there are other consumers who seem to be living a healthy lifestyle but indulge in high carb energy drinks or other performance beverages. Consumers may be drinking fruit-based carbohydrates, believing this is the healthier choice because of the lack of processed ingredients.

This contradiction between processed ingredients, nutrition and health may be due to groups of consumers’ mistrust in the industry. The main reason for the natural megatrend could well be that less-processed products are considered healthier amongst urbanised Western consumers, who have a romantic dream of foraging for their own food in the wild and growing their own vegetables. Many consumers expect the modern supermarket to be offering choices of healthy, natural products with origin declarations.

When comparing consumers’ attitudes in 2012 versus 2013, we saw there was no change in consumers’ perception of what is the healthiest choice in terms of sweetening agents, as the majority (47% in 2012 and 48% in 2013) still think that honey is the healthiest. However, the number of consumers believing sucralose is the healthiest sweetener has decreased from 16% in 2012 to only 4% in 2013, meanwhile the perception of stevia as the healthiest choice of sweetener has changed in a positive direction – from 9% in 2012 to 14% in 2013.

So the natural trend is booming – but as a mainstream business for the industry, it is still somewhat out in the future in terms of revenues. Consumers take information on board, but slower than industry has anticipated (or predicted).

Related news

What role do omega-3s play in sports nutrition?

What role do omega-3s play in sports nutrition?

10 Jul 2018

Omega-3 fatty acids have increasingly become part of athletes’ nutritional regime over the past few years but research supporting their role in sports nutrition is still in its early stages.

Read more 
Could nature-identical ingredients damage the natural sweeteners market?

Could nature-identical ingredients damage the natural sweeteners market?

4 Jul 2018

Natural sweeteners are a major target for companies looking to make nature-identical food ingredients, but if they are produced in a lab rather than extracted from a plant, will consumers accept them as natural?

Read more 
How does honey compare to sugar?

How does honey compare to sugar?

27 Jun 2018

Sugar use is down and honey use is up as manufacturers look for natural sweetening alternatives – but does honey live up to the hype?

Read more 
Fruit and vegetable powders add clean label nutrition, colour and flavour

Fruit and vegetable powders add clean label nutrition, colour and flavour

25 Jun 2018

Fruit and vegetable powders are appearing in a range of foods and drinks to improve their flavour, colour, nutrition and texture, driven by the trend toward whole foods and consumer desire to boost fruit and vegetable consumption.

Read more 
What are the smartest botanical ingredients for brain health?

What are the smartest botanical ingredients for brain health?

20 Jun 2018

As the population ages, botanical ingredients to maintain and improve cognitive health are on the rise. What are they, and what evidence is there to support their claims?

Read more 
Turning a spotlight on healthy fats and oils

Turning a spotlight on healthy fats and oils

19 Jun 2018

European food manufacturers have been turning to healthier oils and fats – but there is often a trade-off to be made, balancing their benefits in terms of flavour and health with how easy they are to work with.

Read more 
Beyond ingredients: Food processing as a tool for cleaner labels

Beyond ingredients: Food processing as a tool for cleaner labels

12 Jun 2018

Ingredients come first when companies think about developing clean label foods and drinks, but certain processing technologies also should be considered part of the clean label toolbox.

Read more 
Plant-based eating boosts European walnut demand

Plant-based eating boosts European walnut demand

12 Jun 2018

The current trend toward plant-based diets and wholesome, natural ingredients has led to increased European demand for walnuts, as consumers have become more aware of their health benefits.

Read more 
Europeans embrace a new wave of seaweed ingredients

Europeans embrace a new wave of seaweed ingredients

6 Jun 2018

Seaweed ingredients are on the rise, set to appear in a wide range of new products in Europe in the coming years – far beyond the traditional sushi and miso soup.

Read more 
How clean label ingredients affect packaging

How clean label ingredients affect packaging

28 May 2018

When companies consider ‘cleaning up’ their product labels, they often focus primarily on how to remove or replace certain ingredients – but they should also consider implications for product packaging.

Read more