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Are Splenda shortages opening the way for Neotame?

Jupiter man leads new player into sweetener market
By Susan Salisbury
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 06, 2005

For those keeping track of these things, the average stick of chewing gum holds its flavor about seven minutes.

So says Mike Scott, who adds that he's got something better: a sweetener so powerful it will keep Juicy Fruit doing the tropical mambo on your taste buds for a full half-hour.

That product is called neotame, and its advocates say it's the coming thing in artificial sweeteners.

"Neotame is 8,000 times sweeter than sugar," said Scott, 50, a Jupiter resident who heads Sweetener Solutions LLC of Savannah, Ga., a strategic partner of the NutraSweet Co. of Chicago, which invented neotame and saw it win Food and Drug Administration approval in 2002.

Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (Equal), saccharin (Sweet 'N Low) and the most recent sensation, sucralose (Splenda), are part of the $2.1 billion sweeteners market, which includes natural substances such as sugar and honey.

But there's more to the story than the American craving for something sweet. Neotame and its partners stand to play a key role in the growing demand by consumers for no-calorie products that taste good but won't add to the obesity epidemic.

Look to this year as a major one in that development, analysts say. "2005 will be the year of food and nutrition," said Kantha Shelke, a food scientist who has worked for major food manufacturers such as The Pillsbury Co. and is a principal at Corvus Blue LLC, a Chicago food science and research firm. "Every component of the food business will have a healthier innovation. It is a huge push."

Demand for high-intensity, no-calorie sweeteners as food additives is projected to increase 8.2 percent a year to $89 million in 2008, according to Atlanta-based market analysts The Freedonia Group. Use of artificial sweeteners by beverage manufacturers is expected to grow to $321 million from $274 million in 2001.

The much-publicized shortage of Splenda, used in more than 4,000 products by food and beverage companies, has boosted interest in neotame, Scott said.

Tate & Lyle PLC, the London-based manufacturer of sucralose, said in December it will not take on new customer requests for the product until expansions at a plant in McIntosh, Ala., come on line in early 2006.

That tight supply is an opportunity for other sweeteners such as neotame, Shelke said.

"I believe there is a lot of opportunity in the current non-caloric sweetener market. It's ripe for the picking," she said.

Neotame isn't sold directly to consumers in bulk or even in tiny packets. Instead, it appears as an ingredient on the labels of more than 350 products, including Hershey's Ice Breakers Liquid Ice mints and Roman Meal Carb Aware wheat bread.

At its plant in Pooler, Ga., Sweetener Solutions blends neotame with sweeteners such as sugar, aspartame and Ace-K and sells the five blends to food and beverage manufacturers.

Univar USA, based in Kirkland, Wash., the largest national distributor of food ingredients in the United States, distributes the blends as well as neotame itself. Neotame's selling points are its clean taste and its high potency, giving manufacturers a way to save money because smaller amounts of neotame can replace larger amounts of other sweeteners, including sugar and fructose, Scott said.

Sweetener Solutions and Univar, in conjunction with food chemists at NutraSweet, work closely with food and beverage manufacturers to reformulate their products to make the switch to neotame.

Sugar makers sue

Herr Foods Inc. of Nottingham, Pa., was trying to find the right balance of sweetness and texture in formulating its Honey Wheat Pretzels, introduced in 2004. "We were having difficulty with conventional sweeteners like sugar and honey and even substitutes such as Splenda. One of our suppliers suggested we try neotame," said Phil Bernas, Herr's manufacturing and technical manager. "Neotame gave us the most amount of sweetness for the least amount of volume."

Another company that uses neotame is Dairy House, a St. Louis-based firm that makes fruit juice beverage concentrates that it sells to dairies, which reconstitute and bottle them. Dairy House wanted to cut the calories in its products and sought out the new sweetener.

"It helps sweeten the product, gives it a cleaner taste and cuts the calories by 25 percent," said Bill Bowen, Dairy House vice president of sales. "We can replace some of the corn syrup with neotame and help people who want to lose a little bit of weight."

Sales of plain sugar in dollar terms have fallen 4.8 percent since 2002, according to Mintel International Group Ltd. But the old standby still retains a 41 percent share of the market.

Florida's sugar industry has been under pressure from trade agreements, declining sugar consumption and low prices, but it has traditionally not been affected much by non-caloric sweeteners, said Barbara J. Miedema, spokeswoman for the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida in Belle Glade, one of three companies producing sugar in the state.

The largest impact on sugar has come from beverage manufacturers, who switched to high-fructose corn syrup years ago.

"When Equal came out, we thought we would see another huge decline in the use of sugar," Miedema said. "That didn't happen. People would feel righteous because they had a diet soft drink, then they would go ahead and indulge in a Twinkie or something else. It did not satisfy their craving for something sweet."

Still, three-fourths of the gains made by Splenda have come from consumers who switched from sugar, and one-fourth from consumers who ditched other low-calorie sweeteners, said Monica Neufang, spokeswoman for McNeil Nutritionals, the division of Johnson & Johnson that sells the Splenda made by Tate & Lyle. "Splenda has buoyed the entire sweetener category," Neufang said.

McNeil is the subject of a half-dozen lawsuits from groups that say its advertising portraying Splenda as something that's made from sugar and tastes like sugar is deceptive, because sucralose is a sugar molecule that contains chlorine atoms. One of the suits has been filed by The Sugar Association, a Washington-based trade group whose membership includes the cooperative, Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals Corp. of West Palm Beach.

In addition, the association has hired an advertising firm to spearhead a campaign against Splenda and is also working on a separate major campaign to promote sugar.

"We are not concerned about competition as long as it is fair competition," said Sugar Association spokeswoman Melanie Miller. "We think consumers are being misled about Splenda."

In the short term, the future looks good for neotame, the newest entrant in the market.

For one thing, neotame is much cheaper than sucralose, and Shelke of Corvus Blue said because of the current shortage of Splenda, some smaller companies were left out.

"With 2006 looming ahead, they have been told they can't get Splenda until then," she said. "They would be very motivated to try another ingredient."

Sweetener Solutions' Scott said the push for less expensive high-intensity sweeteners such as the fresh-tasting neotame comes from the food and beverage industry.

"We are not doing this as a way to attack sugar," Scott said. "We are doing it because manufacturers are asking for it. We have the most cost-effective sweetener in the business."

And then there's the appeal of tradition. Shelke said sugar always will set the gold standard for taste and the way it works in foods.

"The reason why the old-fashioned chocolate cake will never die is that on your wedding day, you are not going to have an artificial cake," Shelke said. "Every sweetener tries to re-create what sugar does, and they have never succeeded completely.

"It's just like nobody can replace your mom. There is always something that will be missing."

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Posted on February 23, 2005 in News | Link To This Entry | Comments (8)


Posted by: Ann Marie Doria on February 28, 2005 1:24 PM

What is Neotame? and what is it made from.
Is it as dangerous as aspartame and sucralose?


Posted by: antipolitical on March 1, 2005 12:49 PM

Why are people permitting this garbage to be introduced into the food chain? Don't they realize that most all chemical compounds are harmful to the body in one way or another? A healthy diet of fruits and vegetables along with some form of meat and getting out to do things instead of sitting around all day will do wonders for a weight problem. Healthy eating does NOT include several fast food meals every day, especially when they're supersized. And you think by drinking six or more "DIET" sodas a day is going to help you shed pounds? Think again!
If people would learn to cook REAL fresh foods instead of depending on the "quick fix" boxed junk that's laden with chemical additives, they'd live a healthier life. And lay off so much of the snacks. Of course, this is only my opinion. I'm no "expert" on anything, I just know what makes me feel good. And the consumming of "junk food" don't make me feel good.


Posted by: Joe Varano on March 7, 2005 9:15 AM

When are we going to see organizations like ADA push to have Stevia allowed as a sweetener?



Posted by: Dr. Janet Starr Hull on March 13, 2005 9:13 PM

Many people are curious about neotame, so I wrote an article in the March newsletter about neotame. Go here to read the article. And stevia - the corporations and their political supporters have fought stevia's presence on the American sweetener market tooth-and-nail! Prior to the onslaught of chemical sugar substitutes, the need to “test” stevia for negative health effects was never necessary after 1,500 years of use in other countries, just as we find little need to test the herbs basil or thyme. People who have used stevia for generations in South America, Japan, China and Indonesian countries do not use stevia as often or in the same quantities as modern consumers use other artificial sweeteners. Further research will be required for stevia safety, though, because as stevia becomes more competitive on the modern sweetener market, it will become more of a threat to the chemical sweetener companies. After years of political scrutiny and stonewalling in Europe, October 2004, stevia was finally approved by the European Commission for use as a sweetener. Keep demanding stevia's freedom, though. That's the only way to secure it stays available.


Posted by: frances on March 14, 2005 9:06 PM

The reason you are never going to see the ADA support stevia is because they get money from the chemical makers. There is an article on this site about just such a thing. Have you ever browsed their web site. They support all kinds of junky artificial crap. As the public we are on our own to study for ourselves. The giant health organizations have failed to notice that people are getting sicker and advice needs to be changed. This however would admit to being wrong.
You have to read their websites to get this. They spew noble information and then dispute it with junky artificial food substitutes and white flour. Who decided that chemicals were good for metabolic disease.


Posted by: Dr. Janet Starr Hull on March 22, 2005 6:17 PM

Well put, Frances. Great advice, great outlook, and great mentorship. Encourage everyone to stop purchasing the toxic products, and maybe the manufacturers will stop making them. Since it really is all for profit, it would be a change to see manufacturers make mega-profits on healthy foods - maybe someday!?


Posted by: Belle Glade on August 26, 2005 6:41 AM

You are absolutely right. I definitly should be like this. You are absolutely right.


Posted by: Clewiston on August 26, 2005 6:55 AM

Some time ago i thought about this. Probably you are right. LOL


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