A California-based ingredient company has announced its natural, zero-calorie sweetener made from sugar cane has received a generally recognized as safe designation from an independent expert panel. Amyris, Inc., said in a release the development will allow the company to start commercially selling the product during the fourth quarter of this year.
Amyris said it will host an invitation-only tasting as part of the launch so investors, media representatives and other guests can sample the new sweetener by itself and as an ingredient in a variety of products before it is introduced to the marketplace.
"Finally, there’s a healthy and great tasting sweetener for everything from coffee to barbecue sauce to the chocolates we cherish," John Melo, Amyris' president and CEO, said in the release. "Working with our partners, we will now be able to bring to consumers all the sweetness they desire but with none of the health dangers or bad aftertaste and, of course, with zero calories."
With stevia, monk fruit, allulose, honey, agave and other products in the market, the natural sweetener space is getting pretty crowded. According to Food Ingredients First, additional sweeteners soon to appear include Tate & Lyle's low-calorie Dolcia Prima Allulose, stevia extracts from Cargill and Sweet Green Fields, Magellan Life Sciences' brazzein product made from an African fruit called oubli, and a DouxMatok sugar-reduction solution developed through a partnership with Südzucker.
Amyris isn't saying too much about its new product made from sugar cane other than it's natural, non-GMO and has no calories or chemicals. If it also delivers on taste as promised, it could be a hit with consumers looking for that familiar sugar buzz yet without the empty calories and potential health issues associated with regular sugar.
A survey from Label Insight found that 22% of U.S. consumers are hoping to restrict their sugar intake, and many plan to do that by buying no-sugar-added items this year. As a result, foods and beverages with zero-calorie sweeteners and no artificial sweeteners saw sales climb 16% in 2017, according to Nielsen figures.
Like any new products, the cost of production and the retail price for consumers will be key for these sweeteners. Amyris President and CEO John Melo told Food Ingredients First the company has the ability to deliver "the lowest cost" natural sweetener to market, although he didn't share any specific production details or other information about its relative price tag. However, the product could significantly disrupt the sweetener space if it possesses all the advertised attributes.
While consumers like naturally sourced sweeteners, generally they aren't willing to pay more to get them, according to a 2016 Mintel report. The exception might be honey, which is viewed as healthier than some others. Sales of syrups and molasses fell 2% from 2011 to 2016, but honey sales rose 57% during the same period, Mintel noted. The U.S. natural honey category is estimated at $342 million and growing at a nearly 11% rate, Food Navigator reported.
There may still be some room left in the natural sweetener segment for additional players, although a shakeout period seems inevitable as marketing and advertising campaigns take hold, consumers gravitate toward their favorites, and bakers and other CPG firms see how the alternatives perform during manufacturing. It will be much clearer at that point which products have staying power.