Discovered by the German chemist Karl Clauss in 1967, the artificial sweetener Acesulfame K, also known as Ace-K and acesulfame potassium, is roughly 200 times sweeter than sugar and was approved in the US by the FDA in 1988. Ten years later the FDA gave the all clear for acesulfame potassium for use in liquid non-alcoholic beverages (soft drinks).
Further approval this week from the FDA leaves manufacturers in the US free to include the additive in a wider range of food products including snack foods and cereals, jams and jellies, sauces, dips and dressings, canned or processed fruit and vegetables, dairy products, vitamins and other dietary supplements.
'We are looking to see good growth figures over the next 12-18 months,' Graham Hall, president and COO of Nutrinova told FoodNavigator.com.
With growth in non-nutritive sweeteners in the US coming in at between 5-8 per cent, Nutrinova is looking to continue and develop on the top end of these figures. 'We've spent close to 18 months for the approval. We are excited that we can now reach out to new product categories,' added Hall.
In discussions with a number of food manufacturers - both existing and new - over the past few months, for Nutrinova the FDA green light is a spring board for new product innovations encorporating Sunett.
The number of products worldwide containing Sunett is about 4000 - a figure that grows weekly - we are hopeful that the new category areas will boost this figure, added the president.
A heat stable additive, making it suitable for cooking and baking, the sweetener is composed of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, sulphur and potassium atoms. The FDA has set an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for acesulfame potassium of 15 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. ADI, expressed in terms of body weight, is the amount of a food additive that can be taken daily in the diet over a lifetime without risk.
The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the scientific advisory body to the World Health Organisation, has also established an ADI of 15 mg/kg of body weight. In the EU, acesulfame potassium - also known as the additive E950 - gained approval in 1983. The additive currently has approval in about 90 countries worldwide.
Non-nutritive sweeteners such as Sunett provide the sweetening power behind a blend. In the US, with the recent approval of neotame, the FDA has now approved five low-calorie sweeteners: neotame, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, saccharin and sucralose. Saccharin was the first low-calorie sweetener used, and has been in use for more than a century.
By itself, acesulfame-K has a bitter, metallic aftertaste, but it is synergistic with a number of other sweeteners, including aspartame.
In August last year for example the European company Sucres de Tirlemont introduced onto the Belgium market Ti'Light Easy. The product is comprised of its Ti'Light cane sugar cubes with aspartame and acesulfame K sweetener.
According to Hall, the company has been successful in selling the blended sweetener formula and is keen to build on this aspect.
'As customers increasingly look to a blend, we can now move into new, interesting markets, such as cereals,' he commented.
US research company SRI Consulting pitches the nutritive sweetener market in the US at $8.4 billion with a growth rate 2.1 per cent rate and in Europe at $16.3 billion with a rate of 1.7 per cent. According to Nutrinova, the market for high intensity sweeteners is currently coming in at a stronger rate of approximately 5-8 per cent in the US.
As obesity and health-related issues continue to beat down on the US, as elsewhere around the globe, the market for diet and sugar free food and beverages will continue to gain ground and food manufacturers can look forward to ongoing market opportunities. Arguably, Nutrinova's latest approval from the FDA has expanded this raft of opportunities.