Xylitol sweetener, growth opportunities pinned on teeth

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Xylitol, Sugar alcohol

Growth areas for the polyol sweetener xylitol highlighted, as
leading ingredients firm Danisco claims new health guidelines
recommend xylitol to prevent dental caries, reports Lindsey
Partos.

The Danish firm claims the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network​, that provides heathcare guidelines, has included xylitol in recommendations encouraging consumers to look after their teeth.

The network says consumers should use non-sugar sweeteners, in particular xylitol, in food and drink, and should be encouraged to use sugar-free chewing gum, "particularly containing xylitol, when this is acceptable."

Xylitol, that belongs to the polyol family of sugar alcohols is a naturally-occurring 5-carbon polyol sweetener found in a host of fruits and vegetables.

As sweet as sucrose, xylitol is the sweetest of all the polyols, but has no after-taste and is safe for diabetics.

With 40 per cent less calories than sugar, a caloric value of 2.4 kcal/g is accepted for nutritional labelling of products, ranging from baked goods and ice cream, to gum and fruit spreads, in the EU and the USA.

The billion euro market for polyols is growing at just under three per cent, compared to over 8 per cent for high intensity sweeteners.

But dental benefits, Danisco claims the product shows both passive and active anti-caries effects, and as highlighted by the Scottish organisation, are set to open up new sales growth areas for this polyol sugar replacer.

Growth will be further compounded by a push in overall demand for sweeteners in sugar-free and low-calorie food products, driven by increasingly health, and weight conscious consumers.

Although market observers maintain that the higher prices of polyols in comparison to sugar will hold back demand for the product both at an EU and world level.

In Europe a handful of polyols - sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, maltitiol and isomalt - have been approved by the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) for use in foodstuffs and fall under the 'additives' label.

Evidence of growth opportunities are apparent in the inroads the ingredient has made in Asia. In the 1990s number one xylitol supplier Danisco, that makes the product from renewable sources such as birch wood, singled out xylitol for leverage in the Asian chewing gum market.

The firm launched a 'value network' to bolster awareness of the ingredient, speaking to regulatory bodies, media, dentists and universities to promote the product to professionals.

Today 80 to 90 per cent of chewing gum sold in Asia has xylitol in their formulations.

Market analysts Business Communications Company pitched global market demand for polyols in 2001 at about 1,397,000 metric tons in sales volumes. This volume is expected to exhibit an average annual growth rate of 2.7 per cent for the next five years to reach 1,597,000 metric tons.

But with alternative sweeteners estimated to be growing at 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, growth could be considerably higher for polyols.

With under one third of the calories of sugar, sorbitol -also non-cariogenic - is the most commonly used polyol (sugar alcohol) since it is the least costly.

According to BCC more than one million tons of sorbitol liquid and crystalline are sold in the US, Europe and Asia. All other polyols are relatively small in volume, with sales ranging from 20,000 ton 200,000 tons.

In addition to Danisco​, leading players in polyol, notably sorbitol, supplies include Archer Daniels Midland, Swiss firm Lonza, Roquette America and SPI Polyols.

Related topics: Ingredients

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