More Food and Beverage Makers Doing Without High Fructose Corn Syrup: Study

LONDON -- In an effort to market foods and beverages that are perceived to be "better for you," more packaged food and drink producers are leaving high fructose corn syrup out of their new product formulations, according to an analysis by London-based Datamonitor of its Productscan Online database.

Datamonitor said its analysis found that the number of new food and beverage products launched worldwide claiming that they contain no high fructose corn syrup has nearly tripled thus far in 2007, compared to all of 2006.

According to Datamonitor, 146 new food and beverage products have been launched worldwide by vendors proclaiming that they do not contain any high fructose corn syrup. This compares with just 54 new products that were identified as high fructose corn syrup-free in 2006, and 53 products bearing the same claim in 2005.

"Until recently, a handful of small companies said their products were free of high fructose corn syrup," said Tom Vierhile, director of Datamonitor's Productscan Online database of new products, in a statement. "What's new today is that some of the larger packaged food and beverage companies are removing high fructose corn syrup from their products including Kraft Foods, Dannon, and Del Monte Foods."

For now, the trend is heavily concentrated in the USA, Datamonitor found. Kraft Foods' contribution to the trend includes Back to Nature Chewy Trail Mix Bars, Fruit & Grain Bars, and Bakery Squares Bars, for example. All three lines were launched in the United States earlier this year.

Despite negative media attention surrounding high fructose corn syrup, the medical case against the ingredient isn't crystal clear, Datamonitor noted. In July, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that there was no unique link between high fructose corn syrup and obesity, for instance.

Even so, consumers want fewer processed foods in their lives, said the research firm. In a 2006 Datamonitor consumer survey, 63 percent of American consumers said it was "important" or "very important" to reduce processed food consumption. Sixty-four percent of consumers in the UK concurred, as did 73 percent of consumers in Italy.

With high fructose corn syrup falling out of favor with some manufacturers, the door may be opening for alternative sweeteners like agave and stevia, the research group noted. Stevia is the subject of intensive research by Cargill and Coca-Cola Co., which have teamed up in the hope of marketing a new calorie-free sweetener to consumers in Europe and the U.S. based on a stevia product called Rebiana.

Stevia is not yet approved for use in food and beverage products worldwide, which means opportunities for other natural sweeteners like cane sugar and agave. The latter has recently shown up in new packaged foods ranging from ketchup to salad dressing, beer, and cookies.
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