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Emerging markets and sugar prices drive sucralose takeup, JK Sucralose

By Lynda Searby , 25-Feb-2011

Related topics: Emerging Markets, Commodities, Cocoa & Sugar

The market for the sweetener sucralose is poised for growth, with global production expected to top 15,000 tonnes by 2018, according to the world’s second largest sucralose producer.

The US is currently the largest market for sucralose, using more than 1,500 tonnes a year of the sweetener, followed by Europe, which consumes around 400 tonnes a year, says JK Sucralose.

“Europe and the US are currently the largest markets for sucralose, but in Europe the market is not that developed as the sweetener has only been on the market for six years,” Hongmei Yang, global marketing director with the Chinese sucralose supplier, told FoodNavigator.

However, in the next few years, JK Sucralose expects the dynamic to shift, with China, India and South America emerging as the major growth engines. The company has recently received government approval for a major expansion of its facility, in a bid to cater to new demand.

“India, China and South America are small markets at the moment, but they’ve got enormous potential and are developing fast,” said Yang.

Falling price against sugar

She believes there are a number of reasons why demand for sucralose is booming:

“Most other sweeteners have their weak points,” she explains. “Acesulfame K and saccharin have a bitter taste, and aspartame as well as neotame are not that stable. This is why other sweeteners are slowly being replaced by sucralose which is very safe and very stable.”

The rising cost of sugar and the falling cost of sucralose is another factor in the sweetener’s favour, she said.

“The price of sugar is rising dramatically and because of climate change, sugar output is decreasing. On the other hand, the cost of sucralose has already fallen and is likely to go down even more in future.”

Expansion approval

JK Sucralose is hoping that the 4,000-tonne expansion programme at its production facility on the Bio-food Technopark, Yancheng City, in China’s Jiangsu Province, will enable it to capture some of this potential and narrow the gap with market leader Tate & Lyle.

Last October JK Sucralose became the first Chinese sucralose manufacturer to be granted government approval for a large scale production expansion project.

“It is not easy to get approval for these types of projects,” Yang told FoodNavigator. “Many chemical companies are looking to expand their capacity but the government controls this tightly to avoid surplus capacity.”

JK Sucralose currently produces 500 tonnes of sucralose annually and expects to reach 1,000 tonnes by the end of 2011. The expansion, which will be implemented in four phases, will see the company’s capacity swell to 5,000 tonnes by 2018.

JK Sucralose is one of a number of Chinese companies who have entered the sucralose market in recent years, following the expiry of important patents held by Tate & Lyle. However, several of these newcomers have had their growth ambitions dashed by court cases in which they have been found to be infringing Tate & Lyle’s patents.

In 2007, JK Sucralose became the first Chinese firm to take the initiative to join a US International Trade Commission (USITC) investigation and the commission ruled that JK Sucralose’s manufacturing process did not infringe Tate & Lyle’s patents.