The number of new food and beverage products containing aspartame has continued to fall since 2005, indicates data from Mintel, while the number of those using sucralose has risen.
Data drawn from Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD
) showed 746 new products containing aspartame in Europe in 2005, 700 in 2006 and 663 in 2007.
Sucralose-containing new products, on the other hand, increased from 134 in 2005, to 150 in 2006, to 234 in 2007.
So far this year Mintel has listed 377 aspartame-containing launches in Europe, and 141 containing sucralose.
While asparatame is still far more widely used in Europe than sucralose, some manufacturers are clearly opting for sucralose in a big to attract consumers who are unconvinced that aspartame is safe.
Aspartame, which has been permitted in foods and beverages in both the EU and the US since the early 1980s, has nonetheless been the subject of suspicion over safety. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) last year reasserted its view that there is no credible scientific evidence for ill-effects.
Nonetheless, considerable consumer mistrust remains. UK supermarket Asda has recently stoked debate by referring to aspartame as a 'nasty' that its own products do not contain, on labelling.
The move has prompted the filing of a law suit by aspartame supplier Ajinomoto in May.
"Ajinomoto has taken this legal step to defend the reputation not only of the ingredient, but also of the many products that are sweetened with aspartame," said the company.
According to a recent report from Leatherhead Food International, aspartame is the most widely used intense sweetener, with the global market estimated to be worth some US$637m.
Global sales of sucralose in 2007 were estimated at $233m.
In the UK, often regarded as the barometer of future trends in Europe, a number of major supermarkets have mandated their private label suppliers to stop using aspartame. There are predictions that they may soon be asking the same of brand manufacturers whose products grace their shelves, too.
his may mean that some companies are opting for sucralose for new launches with one eye on this eventuality, so they would not have to reformulate down the line.
Yesterday Angus Flood, director for industrial sales & marketing at Fusion Nutraceuticals, told FoodNavigator.com that the new-comer to the European sucralose market is seeing demand for its product, produced by Alkem in India, from manufacturers seeking to take aspartame out of formulations.
It has dedicated R&D resources to overcoming the technical hurdles of replacing aspartame with sucralose in a number of product categories.
Dublin- and Geneva-based Fusion is producing sucralose using expired patents of Tate & Lyle. These patents dated from when sucralose was first discovered in 1976, by a collaboration between Tate & Lyle and Queen Elizabeth College in London.
Data source: Mintel's Global New Products Database