Low-calorie sweeteners are a potential beneficiary of the World Health Organisation report recommending lowering daily intake of sugar calories to 10 per cent of total calories in order to decrease the obesity epidemic sweeping the Western world.
These non-sugar sweeteners account for about 10 per cent of total sugar intake in the US. The most popular form is Ajinomoto's aspartame, formerly known as NutraSweet and found in many soft drinks and confectionery goods.
New Jersey-based Ajinomoto USA's director of sweetener sales and marketing, Brendan Naulty, said the report highlighted how strong the desire for sweet foods was, despite the 'side-effect' of obesity.
"People like sweet foods," he said. "That's unlikely to change and so lower calorific input is the name of the game when we are talking about obesity. That's why the demand for artificial sweeteners is growing."
Even the status of soft drinks as a major sugar source was being challenged, with Cadbury Schweppes President of Global Innovation, Mike Weinstein, predicting a rise in low-sugar soft drinks that blend intense sweeteners and sugars as a direct response to consumer concerns about obesity. In the US, many school districts are legislating soft drinks out of schools.
The US Sugar Association recommends the limit be set at 25 per cent, and has threatened asking the US Congress to revoke the $406 million in annual US funding to the WHO unless it scraps the guidelines. In the US, about $7.5 billion is spent annually on obesity-related healthcare.