Diet Candy: Sales are Huge

Think you have a sweet tooth? According to Packaged Foods, diet candy sales reached $495 million in 2004, more than four times the sales in 2000. The major contributing factor appears to be the increasing versatility of many artificial sweeteners, allowing for new combinations of flavor, texture and appearance.

Food Production Daily reports that Russell Stover is the current leader in diet candy, controlling 37% of dollar sales in IRI-tracked mass-market outlets as of first quarter 2005. Following Russell Stover are Hershey at 14%, Atkins Nutritionals with 12% and Kraft and 9%.

What is Diet Candy

So called “Diet Candy” generally means sugar free or low sugar, and the proliferation of sweeteners continues to grow. FDA approved sweeteners include saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame-K, all available both on your supermarket shelves and as ingredients, especially in diet drinks.

Newer sweeteners are known as polyols, which provide the same bulk as sugar but are sugar free, do not promote tooth decay, and are used in a wide range of foods including chewing gum, candies, ice cream, baked goods, and fruit spreads. Polyols are generally mixed with other sweeteners, since the combination (synergy) creates an even sweeter product than either used alone.

New Sweetners: Coming Soon to a Sweet Treat Near You

New sweeteners on the horizon include dihydrochalcones, derived from citrus fruits; glycyrrhizin, a non-caloric extract of licorice root and thaumatin, a mixture of proteins from a West African fruit.

Cyclamate, banned here in 1970 as a potential carcinogen, may make a comeback as it is currently awaiting approval in the United States. Cyclamate is currently accepted and used in 50 countries. Another little known sweetener, alitame, an amino acid derivative may win approval. All of these products are many times sweeter than sucrose, and are winning the favor of food producers and consumers every day.

The bottom line: Do these low calorie, low sugar products help people lose weight?