A consumer trend towards natural sugars and sweeteners will see demand for the likes of stevia soar while forcing artificial rivals such as aspartame into decline, a new report has said.

Market research company Canadean forecasts consumption of stevia will increase by 12.3% over the next five years, hitting an estimated 8,000 tonnes in 2018. At the same time, aspartame consumption will decline by between 0.1% and 1.7%, reaching 8,500 tonnes by 2018.

The Canadean Ingredient report says although aspartame will retain strength in the powdered soft drinks market in Asia, Latin America and Africa, this will not be the case in western Europe, where the sweetener is rapidly losing its dominance in soft drinks to stevia and other products such as sucralose, xylitol, erythritol and acesulfame potassium.

Key drivers for the shift include consumer demand for naturally based sweeteners, including products such as stevia, and a growing fashion for “clean label” products free of E-numbers and artificial additives, according to Canadean.

“Soft drinks products with reduced sugar and natural sweeteners are witnessing increasing growth in the western markets among leading brands,” adds Karin Nielsen, director of Canadean Ingredients. “The middle calorie segment has become a new mainstream market, and we believe that all-natural and less sugar is an important focus for the ingredient industry. This is the case not just for soft drinks, but in all food and beverage categories.”

Although projected growth rates are most impressive for stevia, Canadean also expects a strong performance for sucralose, albeit from a smaller base, with consumption in soft drinks forecast to grow by between 1.9% and

6.6% to reach up to 1,600 tonnes by 2018.

Coconut oil prices pushed up by Haiyan

The Philippines is the world’s top producer of coconut oil, and the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan has tightened supply, sending the price of coconut oil in the EU up 20.7% over the past month to £739.20/t - up 37.1% on this time last year.

The rise in coconut oil prices has had a knock-on effect on palm kernel oil, a cheaper alternative. As coconut oil has become more expensive, more buyers have switched to palm kernel oil, which is now nearly 30% more expensive than a year ago and up nearly 20% month on month.

Meanwhile, coffee maintains a downward trajectory, with both Robusta and Arabica down month on month and year on year. Cocoa prices also continue to fall.

Retail prices table 23 Nov

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Rapeseed to struggle: EU rapeseed plantings are set to fall in 2014 by more than expected in response to lower prices, according to new forecasts from analysts Oil World. The firm now predicts at 3% year-on-year fall to 6.5 million hectares.

Machinery in demand: Agricultural equipment maker Deere & Co is forecasting better-than-expected earnings for 2014, thanks to growing demand for machinery. Net income for the year to October 31 2014 would come in at about $3.3bn.