Neotame sales soar, while Splenda's ads attract more criticism

Related tags Mcneil nutritionals Sucralose Sweeteners

Sales of the sugar substitute neotame more than quadrupled last
year as food and beverage manufacturers searched for low calorie
alternatives in the face of rising obesity, said its makers,
writes Philippa Nuttall.

NutraSweet announced last week that worldwide sales of neotame - said to be 8,000 times sweeter than sugar and approved by the FDA in 2002 - had increased four-fold in the past 12 months.

And according to the company CEO, this trend is set to continue. "We are planning a significant increase in neotame production capacity this year to meet the accelerating customer demand,"​ said Craig Petray.

He attributed the rise to "neotame's sugar-like taste"​ and "cost advantages"​, which meant the company had been able to open new sales channels for the sweeteners.

"These, along with the success of the Sweet Spot, our new development lab in Chicago, put us in a better position to help customers develop foods and beverages sweetened with neotame,"​ added Petray.

While, NutraSweet celebrated its increase, faces at Johnson & Johnson no doubt fell yesterday when they learnt that yet another body had added its voice to the chorus clamoring for it to stop its marketing campaign for its sweetener Splenda

The Organic Consumers Association​ (OCA) on Monday delivered a letter to the FTC demanding an investigation into the marketing campaign being conducted by by Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Nutritionals for its artificial sweetener, Splenda.

The organization, like others before it, claims that it is misleading to make any connection between the sweetener and sugar.

"Splenda doesn't grow in a field like sugar cane or sugar beets,"​ said Ronnie Cummins, OCA's national director.

The letter from the OCA follows hot-on-the-heels of that sent by the Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN) in February.

The group reiterated the line already being peddled by the US sugar association and Merisant that Splenda is, in fact, a man-made chemical compound. FCAN wants the FTC to make Johnson & Johnson suspend the marketing campaign and "set the record straight"​.

McNeil Nutritionals filed a court action in U.S. District Court in Delaware on 8 February for false advertising and deceptive trade practices against the sugar association and its members in an effort to stop the organization "from continuing to make false and misleading claims about Splenda"​. The sugar association had filed a lawsuit in December against McNeil Nutritionals, which hinged on "deceptive and/or misleading representations"​, made by the sweetener firm in "advertisements and marketing terminology"​.

Previous to this, Merisant, the US maker of tabletop sweetener Equal and NutraSweet and a competitor to Splenda, had alleged in November that the product's marketing slogan, "made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar"​, had mislead consumers into thinking the artificial sweetener was "natural"​.

McNeil Nutritionals asserts that sucralose starts off as pure cane sugar, and is then chemically altered in the manufacturing process to create a new compound with zero calories and 600 times sweeter than sugar.

A currently booming market for the Splenda product may, or may not, feel the impact of the US court cases.

"From our perspective, whatever the outcome of the litigation, sucralose will still be made from sugar, and still taste like sugar,"​ a spokesperson at Tate and Lyle, that manufactures the Splenda brand, said in December.

Market analysts Freedonia predict growth of intensity sweeteners at around 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, with sales rising from a small base of $81m in 1998 to $189m in 2008.

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