Xylitol is a sugar alcohol commonly used as a substitute for table sugar. Sugar alcohols are derived from natural sources such as fruit and vegetables. On an industrial scale, xylitol is produced from wood and corn-cob through the conversion of plant fiber xylan to xylitol.
It is used as a sweetener in various kinds of products such as sugar-free candies, chewing gums, mints, diabetic and oral care products. Xylitol is essentially considered a refined sweetener and as such is only composed of carbohydrates devoid of any nutritional components.
Market Dynamics of Xylitol Market:
Xylitol derives its competitive advantage due to several beneficial properties. These are not limited to the technical benefits offered by most sugar substitutes but also sensory factors such as texture and taste. Xylitol looks and tastes very similar to table sugar. The other driving factor is that of lower calorie content. When compared to table sugar, xylitol offers about 40% lesser calorie count. These factors combined with its ‘naturally-derived’ status, make xylitol an important product in the increasingly health-conscious market.
Given its low-calorie content and negligible effects on blood sugar, xylitol is an attractive product for diabetics. It doesn’t contain fructose and has minimal effects on insulin and blood sugar level. The validation for these claims is found in the fact that xylitol has a glycemic index of 7 while table sugar is in the range of 60-70. The glycemic index measures how quickly a particular food raises blood sugar.
Xylitol is also considered useful in battling dental plaque. Xylitol helps in this regard by controlling the ability of oral bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, to regenerate and colonize. Some of the other benefits ascribed to the use of xylitol are increased absorption of calcium, increase in production of saliva and the reduction of the acidity of saliva. These functions help in strengthening the enamel and even in the prevention of osteoporosis to a certain extent.
The major constraining factor of the market is the presence of a considerable number of sugar alcohols in the market. Some of the prominent substitutes include sorbitol, mannitol, and isomalt. Apart from these other naturally derived products such as stevia also pose a considerable threat. The use of these substitutes is mainly centered on the issues of production costs, end-use, and consumer acceptance.
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Market Segmentation of Xylitol Market: The xylitol market is segmented on the basis of raw material and application. On the basis of raw materials, the market is segmented into various natural plant sources such as oats, berries, mushrooms, corn husk and sugar cane bagasse. The dramatic difference in retail prices of Xylitol is a result of the differences in the raw material used and thereby the method of extraction. For instance, Corn-cub offers xylitol at a low cost and is the preferred source of Chinese manufacturers. This source also presents certain difficulties associated with the use of GMO corn. The high extraction costs and unsustainability of certain sources such as that of birch bark are further amplified when the fact that the whole tree has to be cut down for the process is considered.
On the basis of application, the market is segmented into food, beverages, healthcare, cosmetics, and other industrial uses. The food segment is further sub-divided into confectionery, dairy products, bakery and others. Confectionery occupies the major market share within the food segment. Within the confectionery segment chewing gum is the major product category followed by chewable products such as candies and mints. Dairy products are also increasingly using xylitol as a viable substitute for sucrose. Since xylitol is mostly consumed in small quantities, bakery segment occupies a minor market share.
The healthcare segment is also a prominent category due to the widespread use of xylitol for diabetes, oral care and ear infections. Xylitol is also used in cough syrups and various throat-related drugs. In the cosmetics industry, it finds use as a moisture retaining agent (humectant) in lotions, beauty creams and body cleansers.
Regional Outlook of Xylitol Market: The market has been segmented into seven geographic regions including North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific, Japan and, Middle East and Africa. Owing to certain production advantages, China in the world’s leading supplier of Xylitol. The production of xylitol from corn-cub instead of wood offers China considerably less production cost. Other emerging countries such as Brazil and India are expected to perform well as more regional based sources, such as sugarcane bagasse, are developed.
In terms of consumption, North America, and Europe dominate the market. Within Europe, the product is particularly popular in Finland. This consumption is mainly in the form of sugar-free chewing gum, which is the major end-use of xylitol. Much of the chewing gum produced in Europe uses xylitol.
Key Market Players in Xylitol Market: Some of the key players in the market include DuPont Danisco, Cargill, Ingredion, Roquette Freres, Shandong Futaste, and CSPC Shengxue Glucose.