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Isoglucose still poised for EU growth, despite cool response to 2017 shake-up


Isoglucose is still poised for marked expansion in the European Union sweeteners market, despite failing to realise the “tsunami” in volumes forecast on deregulation two years ago, industry group Starch Europe said.


European Union take-up of isoglucose - known in North America as high fructose corn syrup – has, rather than increasing, actually contracted since the bloc’s 2017 sweeteners’ market shake-up which saw the ditching of output quotas.


Production in 2018 was, at 585,000 tonnes, down 7% from the 621,000 tonnes reported for 2017, and a pre-deregulation quota level of 710,000 tonnes, said Jamie Fortescue, the Starch Europe managing director.


“The tsunami that some predicted” in EU isoglucose supplies “is not happening,” he told the International Sugar Organization’s annual Seminar in London.


“All those fears of isoglucose flooding the market from 2017 are clearly not a reality.”


‘We can do better’

However, he flagged a European Commission forecast that output will reach 1m tonnes by 2030, and forecast that production of more than 2m tonnes would be reached “over time”.


At current levels, isoglucose represents about 4% of the EU sweeteners market, compared with 32% in Mexico, and 51% in the US.


While downplaying the potential for market penetration reaching North American levels, “we do feel that we can do better than 4%,” Mr Fortescue said.


‘We have options’

He attributed the EU isoglucose slide since 2017 in fact to “the low sugar price”, which in keeping sweeteners prices low reduced the appeal of the market to starches groups which can manufacture alternative products from their raw materials of corn, potatoes and wheat.


“We have options” over production, he said, with the starch industry also able to produce larger molecules than sweeteners, with uses from animal feed to paper making.


“At these sugar prices it is simply not interesting for us to produce isoglucose.”


‘Not just a war on sugar’

However, he acknowledged too factors such as “customer acceptance” as potential headwinds to demand, saying that grain-based sweeteners faced the same challenges in terms of health perception as sugar.


“It is not just a war on sugar. It is a war on gluten, a war on additives, it’s a war on ay ingredients you do not find on the kitchen shelf.


“It’s a war on processed food.”

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