And sugar-free confectionery is expected to be one of the key application areas driving growth in the European polyols market.
"Health benefits, combined with favourable physicochemical properties
of polyols offer significant opportunities for their use in a variety of
applications which include confectionery," said Frost & Sullivan research analyst Kaye Cheung.
As a result, Frost & Sullivan has estimated that the European polyols market earned revenues of US$491.8 million in 2005, and predicts that this will reach US$577.8 million in 2012.
The superior functional properties and health benefits of polyols have resulted in their increased use in food and pharmaceutical applications.
Moreover, increasing consumer awareness of diabetes, as well as weight management has triggered interest and demand for low calorie/low glycaemic index (GI) foods containing polyols.
Frost & Sullivan also points out that the European polyols market is now witnessing increasing competition from Asian manufacturers. Consequently, the market is turning to be price sensitive.
This competitive scenario has increased the need for market participants to expand into new markets.
"Typically, Asian manufacturers focus on boosting their volumes in order to maximise their market strength," said Cheung.
"In this situation, focusing on quality, customer service and novel products will help European companies cope with the competition arising from the low-cost products that are offered by Asian manufacturers."
Asian manufacturers are able to offer lower prices than European companies, which is adversely impacting the profit margins of local manufacturers. In the future, says Frost & Sullivan, competition is expected to intensify further.
Hence, European manufacturers will need to look for cheaper raw materials in order to bring down their production costs.
Polyols are classified as sugar replacers, and the sweetening activity depends on the type of polyol. Xylitol, for example, is the sweetest of all the polyols, but has no after-taste and is safe for diabetics.
With 40 per cent less calories than sugar, a caloric value of 2.4 kcal/g is accepted for nutritional labelling of products, ranging from baked goods and ice cream, to gum and fruit spreads, in the EU and the USA. In Europe a handful of polyols - sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, maltitiol and isomalt - have been approved by the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) for use in foodstuffs and fall under the 'additives' label.
Frost & Sullivan's Strategic Analysis of the European Polyols Market includes research on xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, sorbitol, isomalt and erythritol.