Icon Foods’ latest market intelligence report shares key insights.
The corn market will contract, while stevia prices will reap the rewards of a “glorious” harvest. In a new market intelligence report, natural-sweeteners supplier Icon Foods (Portland, OR) provided an update on ingredient prices and supply for today’s leading natural sweetener ingredients in Q4 2023 and Q1 2024, including allulose, stevia, and inulin.
Allulose, Erythritol, Xylitol
Corn prices might be pretty stable today, but the market should expect a contraction in 2024, impacting the price of corn-derived sweeteners like allulose and erythritol, the report predicts. Part of the market contraction stems from challenging crop conditions this year.
For now, erythritol is enjoying lower prices. “This is the first time in my 22 years in the industry that I have seen erythritol coming in cheaper than cane sugar and fructose,” wrote report author Thom King, CEO of Icon Foods. That will change in 2024, he predicted, stating: “However, the low price caused by high supply will start to diminish in late Q1 of 2024.” He advised companies to “lock” their erythritol orders in for the rest of 2024 now if possible before prices likely rise in May.
Meanwhile, allulose prices are still somewhat high. King notes that “allulose is one of the best non-nutritive sweeteners, in my opinion. It is easy to formulate with and plays very well with other sweeteners and fiber.” To save on allulose costs this year, he advised blending allulose with monk fruit and/or stevia sweeteners to “save you money and allow you to stretch the allulose further.” Companies today are also working to increase the speed of the traditional crystalline process to produce allulose. “There are a couple of companies that have developed technology to speed that process up,” King added, “but that is a few years off. I have been told that this technology will bring the price down below the cost of fructose.”
The price of xylitol, meanwhile, has decreased. But, King warned, “Since xylitol is a corn-derived ingredient, its cost will rise with the price of corn and when availability wanes. This would be an ingredient worth hedging right now since polyols across the board are at historic lows.”
Inulin, Stevia, and More
Meanwhile, King called the supply chain for chicory root–derived inulin “quite solid.” By contrast, inulin from Jerusalem artichoke and agave are more expensive. He added: “It appears the abundance of chicory root inulin is putting downward pressure on the other inulin-type fibers, but this may turn soon, at least with agave inulin.”
Fruto-oligosaccharides (FOS), meanwhile, are a “fantastic prebiotic fiber,” he wrote, even if FOS may not offer the same gelling properties as chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, or agave. King recommended “stacking” FOS with other inulin-type fibers or soluble tapioca fiber to improve gelling properties “and stabilize whatever potential gastrointestinal effects that may occur from too much dietary fiber.” And regarding soluble tapioca fiber, the ingredient “remains the gold standard for fiber,” King said, and is not impacted by price fluctuations in the corn market.
Stevia leaves, meanwhile, enjoyed a “glorious harvest time” last month, resulting in a “banner crop” this year, King wrote. Stevia prices continue to fall, including significant price drops for steviol glycoside Reb M.
Finally, monk fruit prices are now stabilizing following a price hike in 2022 thanks to a record harvest this year. “Prices are stable right now and coming down. You probably have until the end of July to scoop up some serious deals. I would stock up,” King advised.