Isomalt is a synthetic sugar alcohol and bulk sweetener that finds applications as a substitute for table sugar. Similar to other sugar alcohols, it is derived from natural sources such as sugar beets, but is generally not considered as a natural product due to the extensive processing it undergoes. On an industrial level, isomalt is prepared from sucrose via a two-step enzymatic and chemical process.
Low calorie content, texture and taste that are similar to common sugar and several other such properties make it an attractive product in various foods. It is used in a wide array of products that require sweetening such as candies, desert toppings, chewing gums, beverages and baked goods.
Market Dynamics of Isomalt Market:
The major factors that influence the isomalt market are based on the advantages it offers from an industrial point of view and the value it adds to consumers in terms of health. The major constraining factors are centred on the presence of a vast number of sugar substitutes with a varying degree of prices and calorie contents.
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Sugar substitutes or products containing such products are mostly targeted at consumers looking for weight reduction, have diabetes or other health conditions which are intensified by fats and sugars. The increasing prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes has also increased consumer focus on low calorie food ingredients. However, the decision to purchase such products is a function of various factors such as relative price, calorie content and glycemic index (GI). Price is a drawback for the isomalt market as it is nearly five times as costly as common sugar. This price is further complicated by the vast number of similar products present in the market.
In terms of calories and GI, isomalt offers several benefits. It contains about 2 calories per gram (~2.4 calories per gram in EU) in contrast to table sugar, which contains about 4 calories per gram; and has a comparatively low glycemic index of 9 (Sucrose has a GI of about 65). Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food can raise blood sugar levels.
Sugars can be divided on the basis of their hygroscopic nature, i.e. their ability to absorb or retain moisture. Sweeteners such as fructose and sorbitol are highly hygroscopic in nature in contrast to isomalt, which is non-hygroscopic. This non-absorption of moisture makes isomalt the ideal ingredient for manufacture of candies and chewing gums, where the candy that doesn’t stick to the wrapper is a key objective. Since there is not much moisture absorbed in the products, use of isomalt also increases shelf life and can be used in hard candies that need to be stored in humid climates.
From a regulatory point of view, isomalt is approved for consumption in most countries. U.S. FDA has also accepted a petition to grant isomalt as ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ (GRAS) label. The WHO’s joint expert committee on food additives has placed isomalt in ‘not specified’ category, the safest category that doesn’t prescribe any acceptable daily intake. Despite the favourable regulation for use of isomalt as an ingredient, labelling it with certain claims is restricted in certain areas. For instance, as per EU regulation food products containing labels such as ‘diabetic’ or ‘suitable for diabetics’ are banned.
Unlike other sugar alcohols, isomalt is considered as a fibre by the body as it is not properly absorbed by the body and is only partially-metabolized. Due to this reason isomalt should be used in limited quantities as it can lead to gastric issues such as gas, bloating and diarrhoea. Despite their being no official maximum daily intake, it is reportedly safe when consumed under 30 grams/day.
Market Segmentation of Isomalt Market:
Isomalt market is segmented into application, raw material type and region. On the basis of application, the isomalt market is segmented into food, pharmaceutical, beverages and others. In food production, isomalt is used in a wide number of products such as baked goods, sweet spreads such as jams and jellies, sugar-free confectionery and chewing gums. Because it is more stable and resistant to humidity compared to other sugar alcohols, it is used for decorative purposes (garnishes/toppings) while making cakes and desserts. In the beverages segment, isomalt is used primarily in the manufacture of sports and slimming/fitness drinks. It is used along with other sweeteners to enhance their sweetness or as the sweetener. In the pharmaceutical segments, it is used in products where sweetness is not a primary concern but just an added advantage such as toothpastes and cough syrups. It is also used to sugar-coat tablets and as an ingredient in lozenges.
The Isomalt market is also segmented on the basis of raw material type, includes genetically modified (GM) or non-genetically modified (non-GM). Isomalt is made from sugar and is one of the only sugar alcohols derived from sugar beets. GM sugar beets are not cultivated in EU as it is not allowed as per EU regulations. In the year 2008, majority of the sugar beet cultivators shifted to GM based sugar beets in United States. This presence of GM sugar beets is expected to reduce in response to resistance offered by both consumers and major candy manufacturers.
Regional Outlook of Isomalt Market:
Geographically, the global Isomalt market can be divided by major regions which include North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific excluding Japan, Japan and Middle East and Africa. On the production side, many European firms such as Beneo have a pioneering presence in the isomalt market. A long history of sugar making expertise has led to the dominance of Europe. North America also holds significant market share due to the high supply of sugar beets, the major source of isomalt. In the Asia- Pacific region Japan and China are the emerging producers of Isomalt. On the consumption side, the market for isomalt is mainly dependent on the demand for low-calories food and beverage products, and pharmaceutical products such as sweetener coated tablets and oral care products.
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Key Market Players in Isomalt Market:
Some of the key players of the market include BENEO GmbH, Cargill, Incorporated, Roquette Freres, Atlantic Chemicals Trading GmbH (ACT), A & Z Food Additives Co., Ltd., Ingredion Inc., Sanxinyuan Food Industry Corporation Limited, among the others.