Has sugar lost its sweet spot? Paraguayan plant upends market

Has sugar lost its sweet spot? Paraguayan plant upends market

(Reuters) – The maker of America’s top sugar brand Domino Sugar is launching its first no-calorie “natural” sweetener extracted from the stevia plant in Paraguay, the strongest sign yet that the upstart product is threatening to eat into raw-sugar demand.

In less than a decade, the sweet-tasting stevia powder has stolen a big chunk of the 350.3-billion global market for artificial sweeteners as more health-conscious consumers use it in what they eat and drink.

Consumers’ appetite for artificial sweeteners like Cumberland Packing Co.’s Sweet’N Low and corn syrup has waned amid rising interest in foods perceived as natural.

The powerful corporations that dominate the global sugar market are also facing slowing demand, especially in the United States, for refined sugar that is used in everything from coffee to cakes. The U.S. slowdown is due in part to concerns about extremely high rates of obesity and diabetes.

Big Sugar’s response? To offer new non-sugar products that are not calorific, are suitable for diabetes sufferers and, more importantly, are seen as a more attractive alternative for health-conscious consumers than artificial sweeteners.

“If you look down the sweeteners aisle at any supermarket, there are stevia products there. Whatever consumers are looking for, we want to provide,” Domino President and Chief Executive Officer Brian O’Malley told Reuters.

ASR Group, which sells Domino Sugar and is the world’s largest refiner of cane sugar, will launch its new product by the end of the year – its first to be made solely from the plant extract rather than a blend of sugar and stevia.

For ASR Group, which also owns the Tate & Lyle brand, it’s a bold move: sugar represents 98 percent of its business.

But stevia’s low production costs and relatively high retail sales prices are a sweet spot for food companies.

After spying growing interest four years ago, Louis Dreyfus Corp.’s Imperial Sugar has its own blends of sugar and stevia, and agri business Cargill Inc.’s Truvia brand is the U.S. market leader after entering the fray in 2008.

Archer Daniels Midland Co, a major player in the U.S. corn syrup market and global commodities trade, this month completed a -billion
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Has sugar lost its sweet spot? Paraguayan plant upends market – Reuters

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