A paradigm shift in the consumption of artificial sweeteners and growing awareness toward natural alternatives
- Published | 14 March 2022
Artificial sweeteners sometimes referred to as a substitute to sugar, are chemicals that get added to a certain class of foods as well as beverages to enhance the sweetness of the product. People have been referring to such artificial product as intense sweeteners as they offer a similar taste to that of usual sugar used across the users, however, comes with a pinch of extra sweetness. Although some artificial sweeteners have been providing higher calorific intake, the amount required for sweetening the products is so minuscule that the consumer may sometimes perceive the consumption to be calorie-free. Artificial sweeteners are gaining popularity in the countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. For example, Malaysia approved SweeGen's Bestevia (stevia-based artificial sweetener product) in May 2021. Moreover, the manufacturing of saccharin, cyclamate, stevia, aspartame, and sucralose is increasing in China. According to WHO, obesity is a major health concern in China with rapidly growing cases of abdominal obesity.
The artificial sweeteners that have been made available to the general users and happen to be well recognized across the global market includes:
- Aspartame (It happens to be over 200 times sweeter than regular sugar)
- Acesulfame potassium (200 times sweeter)
- Advantame (20,000 times sweeter than regular sugar and best suited for purposes including baking and cooking)
- Neotame (13,000 times sweeter than regular sugar)
- Sucralose (600 times sweeter than regular sugar)
Such a wide variety of artificial sweeteners available for consumption has increased the exposure of normal people to more sugar content. People who consumed artificial sweeteners in the form of food have started reporting an increased appetite for sweetened food. Since artificial sweeteners add more sweetness to the mouth but don’t compensate for the hunger, it has resulted in people consuming sugary foods and thus putting them off the track from the real purpose of consuming artificial sugar. A rise in sugar consumption leads to obesity, which opens up a breadth of possibilities for human beings to witness a rising number of diseases, that they might not have imagined. According to one study conducted by the OECD Countries and WHO Global Health Observatory, under the measured overweight (including obesity) rates across adults for the year 2019, Mexico, Chile, and United States secured the top three positions with an astounding 75.2%, 74.2% and 73.1% of the size registering that they are overweight.
As a result, the growing concerns of the general public have made them inclined toward a more secure approach of consuming sugar, that is natural alternatives to artificial food colors, additives, and sweeteners.
Why is there an inclination towards natural alternatives?
A steep rise in the food allergies caused by artificial food colorings has made people grow more vigilant to protect themselves and their children from witnessing such catastrophe.
Growing cases of food allergies, asthma and hives owing to food color agents:
Tartrazine happens to be a synthetic food coloring that has been long imitated for creating the color yellow. Yellow color is one of the most attractive colors for children, thus enabling the companies to make their children-based products to be branded with yellow color. The food additive has been garnering a lot of attention lately owing to the studies suggesting that it has led to a spike in the number of cases related to hives (urticarial) and asthma.
According to the recent estimates from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people who reported being enduring respiratory allergies in the U.S. over the past 12 months was close to 7.1 million. In contrast to this, the number of people who reported food allergies across the U.S. in a year was close to 4.8 million. Such a staggering figure suggests that people are looking for natural alternatives, which include, Raspberries, Beetroot, cranberry juice, tomatoes, for creating Red color. For Orange color, people have started to use Carrot Juice and sweet potatoes. For the Yellow color, people are using turmeric powder, and saffron flowers. These additives not only enhance the coloring of the food, however, augments the texture and nutrients in the food, which lowers inflammation and improves digestion, thus enabling a higher demand for such natural alternatives.
The rise of underlying diseases generated by artificial sweeteners
The fueling consumption of sugar foods owing to the habitual consumption of sugary foods has led to higher obesity rates across some of the developed nations in the world. Obesity is the breeding ground for various diseases, including but not limited to Type-2 diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure, cancer, blood tumors, and others. A rise in such diseases ultimately impacts the life expectancy of the nations, which could only be sustained by more robust healthcare. It thus adds more pressure on the healthcare system of a country and correspondingly impacts the GDP of an economy.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 37 million U.S. citizens accounting for more than 12% of the total population have one of the other types of diabetes, out of which 90-95% of the population has been affected by type 2 diabetes. Such an astonishing statistic has called for measures from the federal government as well as for the general public to undertake steps in cutting down their sugar consumption and opt for natural alternatives such as Stevia, Erythritol, Xylitol, Yacon syrup, and others, which have demonstrated their performance in reducing and regulating blood sugar levels and reducing blood pressure contrary to the popular belief that sugar may do the opposite. As a result, people have grown more inclined to consumer such sugars that are found in berries, corn, plums, lettuce, and others.
Recent Developments & Investments
- In October 2021: A Virginia-based natural sugar manufacturer announced that they are looking forward to expanding their operations along with a partnership with a sugary food giant, The Hershey Company. In one report, Hershey stated that the company is investing more than USD 27.7 million toward Bonumose (a 2016 startup that is working on the development of tagatose as well as allulose natural sweeteners for distribution of healthier sugar ingredients). The company stated that they leverage the starchy byproduct of various food makers’ for processing these sweeteners. The companies stated that the new investment could enable Bonumose into moving toward a 36,000-square-foot facility based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Bonumose also stated their plans on bolstering the production with the relocation. The company goes on to make a statement, that they are aiming at becoming the world’s top producer for tagatose natural sweeteners and claims of it being as close 92% as sweet in comparison to regular sugar but carried about 38% of the calories.
- In July 2021: Layn Natural Ingredients has announced that the company is investing more than USD 148 million toward the expansion of company infrastructure as well as more allocations toward R&D innovations for plant-based natural sweeteners as well as botanicals, and strengthen its supply chain. The Chinese company happens to be one of the biggest manufacturers of stevia, monk fruit extracts, and botanical extracts, comprising pomegranate, rosemary, and tea extracts. Such as investment is anticipated to contribute to the construction of a new manufacturing facility to be set for processing more than 4,000 megatons of stevia leaf annually.
- In May 2021: A Southeast Asian start-up namely Swiftlet developed a natural and claims the zero-calorie sweetener to be crafted using a blend of various plant extracts to retain the taste and add the functionality of sugar. The company co-founder stated that they are making an investment in health. The company also goes on to state that Swiftlet's natural sugar replacement includes zero calories as well as quite low levels of the glycaemic index, suggesting that it could also be consumed by diabetic patients. It comes free from any artificial flavorings and includes prebiotic dietary fibers, which has been found to improve the digestive health.
- In April 2021: Manus Bio, Inc. (which happens to be a US leading manufacturer for sustainable ingredients originated from natural sources), announced that the company is launching NutraSweet Natural. It is a plant-based natural sweetener that comes with zero calories and offers 100% sweetness. Manus Bio has been leveraging green technology for paving its way into the next-gen calorific reduction products and sources natural ingredients while maintaining the ecological footprint. The NutraSweet Natural product launched by the company was developed using an isolation technique for eradicating the sheer sweetness and adding a pinch of purest parts originating from the stevia leaf along with a mixture of other ingredients to offer the taste of regular sugar but without any calorific content. The result happens to be a revolutionary natural sweetener offering a regular sugar taste.
Although it may seem that people have started becoming aware of the benefits of the natural ingredients for sweeteners and colorings. However, there is still a growing demand for governmental programs and initiatives to drive more inclination toward the consumption of such natural sweeteners. Some of the food and beverage giants have recognized the trend and have started incorporating the changes into their products by partnering with natural sweetener companies. However, many of the other brands, whose very premise relies on the sugary content may take a leap into this field. The food and beverage companies have already started to opt for alternative sweeteners over the past few years. However, the transition toward a natural sweetener may become a difficult take for some well-established players, unless the consumer behaviors return a challenge onto them for opting such natural coloring and sweeteners. Until then, the consumers are required to become more rational and opt for those sweeteners that may augment their experience with one of the most consumed and addictive substances on the planet.
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