American sweetener business NutraSweet are attempting to challenge the world monopoly that Britain's Tate & Lyle has over sucralose.
The news will come of interest to food producers who may stand to benefit from the extra availability and potential price war a competitor to Tate & Lyle may bring.
Tate & Lyle's sucralose, under its brand name Splenda, is in such great demand that supplies were rationed. And due to lack of competition in the market, pricing is far from in favour of food manufacturers.
NutraSweet has revealed it is in discussions with Asian partners about producing the artificial sweetener. However, with a number of patents already in place, it may be difficult to successfully produce sucralose without infringements being made.
In a statement given to ConfectioneryNews.com, Tate & Lyle expressed confidence in its product and highlighted difficulties that any potential newcomers to may face.
"You can't launch a product as successful as sucralose without drawing attention to it. Clearly a lot of companies want to play catch up. But that's not an easy game to play - it costs time, patience and expenditure to be able to meet the high specification required at realistic volumes."
More importantly to producers of the 4,000 products worldwide now using sucralose, is that a rival to Tate & Lyle may not be able to compete in terms of quality. A Tate & Lyle spokesperson said it had the "benefits of a third generation plant, technical expertise, know how, economics of scale" as well as a trusted brand.
Sucralose as an ingredient is derived from sugar itself and maintains a sweetness said to be 600 times that of sugar under the heat of cooking and baking.
The ingredient was discovered in 1976 and there were years of testing before the product first entered the market in 1990. It was only ratified by the EU in 2004.
The sweetener's popularity is rooted in the way it is received by the body. Even though it is technically a carbohydrate, the human body does not recognise it as one and thus it is not broken down into energy. Health benefits also come because oral bacteria that cause cavities and other dental problems don't use sucralose as a nutrient, meaning it is not harmful to teeth.
In an increasingly health-conscious world, a trend that is demonstrated throughout the confectionery industry, a calorie-free substitute for sugar is always going to be popular with manufacturers. NutraSweet's intended advance into the sucralose market should therefore be monitored closely even if any meaningful action by the US company is some way off.