A sugar alcohol, erythritol is a white crystalline powder that is odourless, with a sweet taste similar to sucrose. It is approximately 70 per cent as sweet as sucrose and has a caloric value of 0.2 calories per gram.
Canada joins the US, Japan, Australia and a handful of countries that have already approved a raft of applications for the bulk sweetener that can be blended with low-calorie sweeteners such as acesulfame potassium and aspartame, as well as other polyols, namely sorbitol and xylitol. The EU has yet to provide approval.
This latest green light is set to boost sales for the sweetener already enjoying growth, along with sweeteners in general, on the back of health consumer concerns. A recent report from Business Communications (BCC) predicts that although sugar alcohols and HIS (high intensity sweeteners) are still relatively new and unexplored sweeteners in the $10.92 billion (€8.06bn) global sweetener market, their presence in the market is growing rapidly.
Total global sugar alcohol production was estimated at 836,905 tons, up 2.2 per cent over last year. US consumption of sugar alcohols was estimated at 376,640 tons, nearly 79 per cent of the total production of these sweeteners. In the next five years consumption of sugar alcohols and HIS is slated to rise as much as 15 per cent as new sweeteners make their debut, and improvements come about in those already in wide use.
Sorbitol made up the largest percentage of sugar alcohols, with more than 54 per cent of the total production in this market, but newcomer tagatose is waiting in the wings with a fast growth rate estimated at more than 20-25 per cent within five years. Other sugar alcohols including erythritol, maltitol and xylitol have also increased their share of this market.
Ron Perko, polyol business development manager at agro giant Cargill, the leading erythritol supplier that filed the erythritol petition with the Canadian government, commented: "The Canadian approval is significant because there is growing demand for healthy, reduced calorie, and reduced sugar products across North America. Cargill's Eridex erythritol offers the added bonus that it is tooth friendly (non-cariogenic) and does not contribute to an increase in blood sugar levels upon consumption."
The Canadian government approved six food uses of erythritol, establishing use levels for erythritol in low- or reduced-calorie beverages, dietetic biscuits, soft sweets (including chocolate) and hard sweets, chewing gum and as a tabletop sweetener.
Full details of this food additive approval can be gained from the Canadian government's 15 December 2004 journal.