Thursday, December 18, 2008

Organic Agave Nectar & Other Natural Sweeteners are Finding Sweet Success

It wasn’t long ago that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial low-calorie sweeteners were riding a wave of popularity, especially with the food and drink manufacturers whom found them to be convenient to transport, easy to process and inexpensive. Consumers didn’t really know any better, and as long as something tasted sweet, was “low calorie” and cheap they were happy. Now, for many reasons including health concerns associated with those sweeteners, the landscape is rapidly shifting toward natural alternative sweeteners. Agave, yacon, palm sugar, brown rice syrup and maple syrup are some of the hot alternative sweeteners that offer unique gourmet flavor profiles, potential health benefits, as well as fair trade and organic status.

The diabetes epidemic in North America has created a robust market for sweeteners that score low on the Glycemic Index (GI). One in five Americans is at high risk of developing diabetes. According to a recent report by Packaged Facts, sales of low-GI foods could reach $1.8 billion by 2011. Many of the new natural sweeteners that are experiencing rapid growth have a low GI.

Agave nectar is one of the most popular new natural sweeteners in the marketplace, both as a stand alone product, as well as a sweetener ingredient in a wide variety of foods and drinks. There were at least 176 new products with agave launched in 2007, compared to 56 in 2003, according to DataMonitor’s ProductScan online. Agave has several positive attributes that appeal to a variety of consumer types: it is comprised of simple sugars that are easy to digest and has a low glycemic index (a GI of 32); provides a sweet mild flavor and consistent smooth texture; has a solid reputation as a natural and organic product that is sustainably harvested; pours evenly and dissolves easily into foods without dominating the flavor of the recipe; and it is economical because it has approximately 1.4 times the sweetening power of white sugar –so less is needed.

The food science “magic” of agave nectar is that it is comprised primarily of fructose. Therefore, it is sweeter to the taste buds – yet it does not adversely impact blood glucose and insulin. So, while it is a delightful sweetener for everyone, it is ideal for the millions of diabetics in America and parents of hyperactive children that have concerns regarding the glycemic levels in their food. An example of a hot new packaged consumer product that is sweetened with agave is Wholemato Organic Agave Ketchup ( “Our ketchup is a fresh gourmet version of an old classic and one of its key selling points is that it has been certified as Low-Glycemic for Diabetics by the Glycemic Research Institute, due to its remarkable low score on the glycemic index of only 7 per tablespoon,” says Wholemato President and founder Jason Kessler. “People are really starting to connect agave with healthy and delicious, and they are checking product labels for it,” he adds.

Agave producers are experiencing rapid sales growth. At Madhava, sales of agave nectar doubled from 2006 to 2007. Some of the other popular food and drink brands that are using agave as a sweetener include Rudi’s Bread, Earth Balance, Stash Tea, RawRevolution Bars, Robert Rothchild Blackberry Spread, Vida Tea, and Amazing Grass Whole Food Energy Bars. For more information about agave, please visit and

No comments: