Yacon syrup is an exciting new entry into the alternative sweeteners market. According to a new consumer research report by Freedonia, the market for alternative sweeteners is expected to rise 6.9% per year over the next 4 years, outpacing growth in the overall US sweetener market. With demand for sugar and HFCS flat or on the decline, natural sweeteners will fill a greater niche in the market, replacing both conventional and artificial sweeteners, including aspartame and sucralose.
Over the past 10 years, consumers have increasingly preferred products with the “all natural” or “clean label,” providing double-digit annual growth opportunities for stevia, agave nectar, lo han guo, coconut sugar, and erythritol. So too, due to Yacon’s added health and weight loss benefits, we can expect products made with Yacon Syrup to become increasingly familiar and attractive to consumers.1
Natural sweeteners and sugar substitutes are taking off as consumers increasingly shy away from refined sugars. According to experts at the International Sweetener Colloquium this year, sugar avoidance is a macro trend “that is here to stay and will only increase.” Consumer research firm Information Resources INC (IRI) said that 58% of consumers across generations are avoiding sugar and 44% of consumers classified as healthy eaters cite low sugar as a consideration when buying food and beverages.2
Among alternative sweeteners, Yacon Syrup is just beginning to gain widespread notice. Featured on the Dr. Oz show in 2013, Yacon has been hailed for its weight loss benefits due to its low calorie count and low glycemic index. A study published in Clinical Nutrition in 2009 demonstrated that a daily intake of Yacon Syrup produced a significant decrease in body weight, waist circumference and body mass index when given to obese pre-menopausal women.3
Yacon syrup is made from the roots of the Yacon plant (Smallanthus Sonchifolius), with a consistency similar to maple syrup and a sweet, caramelized taste, similar to molasses.. Indigenous to the Andes mountains, the Yacon plant has long been used for medicinal purposes.
In South America, Yacon is highly regarded for its nutritional properties. As a result of its low calorie count and low glycemic index, many people eat Yacon roots and drink tea to manage diabetes. Yacon Syrup has a very high Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) content. FOS are considered healthy carbohydrates because their complex structure causes sugars to be absorbed into the blood stream slower and helps promote healthy bacteria in the stomach. A 2002 study found that an enzyme solution of Yacon was determined to be a better antioxidant than enzyme solutions of potato, mushroom, eggplant and edible burdock.4
Like agave nectar, lo han guo, stevia and coconut sugar before it, Yacon is poised to become an attractive differentiator among functional food and beverage products for health conscious consumers. As studies continue to proliferate and the profile of Yacon grows, major opportunities exist for product developers to reach a wider segment of consumers looking for an authentic healthful sweetener that can also provide a health and weight management solution.