Erythritol – overview
Read our overview of erythritol – sugar alcohol, widely used as a sweetener on a global scale. Discover the production methods and characteristics of the product along with a varied list of applications. Take a look at global market insights and projections for development.
What is erythritol?
Erythritol is a type of carbohydrate known as a polyol, otherwise referred to as alcohol sugar. However, it does not contain nor alcohol nor sugar but has the chemical characteristics of both. Erythritol naturally occurs in some fruits and fermented goods but can also be produced industrially.
Erythritol is considered safe for diabetics as it evokes no glycemic response. The majority of erythritol consumed by the organism is not digested and therefore does not cause laxation and bloating, unlike other polyols. Erythritol is also noncariogenic meaning it does not affect teeth. Moreover, the product is gluten-free and suitable for vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and keto diets.
Erythritol is naturally found in fruits, but its extraction from plants is highly inefficient. Industrially produced erythritol is obtained by fermentation of glucose or fructose with the use of various yeasts and other microorganisms. The raw material used for erythritol production is usually corn or fermented fruits unfit for direct human consumption. The final product comes in the form of a white, crystalline powder or granules, without foreign odors.
Erythritol is 60-70% less sweet than sucrose and has a distinctive, fresh mouthfeel with slight acidity. When consumed directly, it creates a cooling effect in the mouth. It is commonly mixed with other high-intensity sweeteners to achieve the desired level of sweetness. Erythritol is less soluble in water and less viscous than sucrose and other sugars. It is characterized by good stability in high temperatures and acid environments. It also has a very low hygroscopicity rate.
Erythritol has a very low caloric value – much lower than other sugars, and is therefore commonly applied in reduced-calorie and sugar-free goods. Together with other sweeteners, erythritol is added to many products to enhance their sweetness and balance the flavor by providing a limited supply of calories. It is added to foodstuffs such as yogurts, chocolate bars, candies, and jellies. It is a common ingredient of sugar-free soft drinks and beverages.
In solid foods, erythritol is used as a bulking and thickening agent to add weight and volume to the product. It is also used to limit moisture adsorption in fruit bars, flour mixes, and coatings. It acts as a softener in chewing gums and hard candies. In baked goods and confectionery, erythritol improves structural tightness and softness.
Moreover, erythritol is applied in the pharmaceutical sector due to its anti-oxidation, non-flammability, and moisture retention properties. It is also an ingredient of various personal care products such as anti-aging creams and serums due to its properties that minimize wrinkle formation.
The global erythritol market was valued at $230.6 million in 2021 and is expected to reach $389.11 million by 2025 growing at a CAGR of 4.8%. The erythritol markets of the highest value are North America, Western Europe, and Japan.
In North America, the erythritol market amounted to $90.93 million in 2020 and is projected to expand at a CAGR of 7% within the next five years. North America accounts for most of the global production, while Chinese manufacturers rank second. The growth in the American region is fueled by increasing health awareness and demand for low-calorie goods, especially among younger consumers. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to experience the fastest growth within the next couple of years, especially in China and India. Domestic interest is driven by increasing rates of diabetes and shifting consumer demand towards foodstuffs with limited sugar content.
The global market development is driven by increased demand for healthier food and beverage options, including sugar-free and low-calorie goods. Furthermore, growing rates of diabetic disorders are propelling the demand for sugar replacements. Developments in the pharmaceutical and personal care sectors also contribute to the expansion of the erythritol market. However, the market is expected to face some challenges such as national limitations on the product’s use and the growing popularity of easily available alternative sweeteners such as stevia.