Opportunity knocks amid sweetener scares
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Opportunity knocks amid sweetener scares

While sweeteners have been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons recently, a major sugar producer senses an opportunity

Mr Chalush wants to add value to sugar and change its image which is often linked with negative health impacts.
Mr Chalush wants to add value to sugar and change its image which is often linked with negative health impacts.

Concerns over aspartame, an artificial sweetener, emerged recently when the World Health Organization revealed in July that it may be carcinogenic.

According to media reports, although the warning did not lead to a change in the recommended daily intake limit, it highlighted the need to consume artificial sweeteners with care.

If consumers choose to consume sugar, the question is what type would be able to help them avoid non-communicable diseases and the weight gain typically caused by overconsumption.

Growing concerns over the health impact of consuming sugar or sweeteners is perceived as a business opportunity by Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Plc (KSL), Thailand's third-largest sugar producer by sales volume, which has developed sugar with a low glycemic index (GI) to serve people who need to control their blood sugar level.

Low-GI sugar launched by KSL.

KSL does not want to produce and sell only sugar, but it also wants to introduce a special type of sugar for consumers who are prone to the negative impact of sugar but still need it in their daily diet.

"We expect the low-GI sugar to build a new market offering high-quality and premium choice of sugar to Thai consumers," said Chalush Chinthammit, president of KSL.


The company aims to change people's perception of sugar by introducing them to innovative sugar which goes in line with a trend in healthier lifestyles, he said.

The low-GI sugar will not only change the image of sugar, but it could cause a change in the sugar industry in Thailand.

GI is a rating system for food containing carbohydrates and sugar. It shows how quickly each food increases people's blood sugar (glucose) levels when consumed.

Food with high GI, including sugar, leads to a rapid increase of sugar in blood, which is not good for people, especially patients with diabetes, who need to control their blood glucose.

This is one reason that leads many people to develop a negative perception of sugar and has caused food and drink manufacturers to replace sugar with sweeteners.

People's increasing interest in healthcare is expected to prompt manufacturers to adjust their products. Usually Thai sugar factories produce only ordinary sugar without adding value to the products in order to boost revenue for both manufacturers and sugar cane farmers.

Now sugar producers and sellers in countries such as Brazil, India and Australia offer sugar with low GI as a new alternative to their customers, said Mr Chalush.

"Global companies in the food and drink industry tend to use low-GI sugar to sell their products to people who are concerned over sugar's negative impact," he said.

With the new image of sugar, KSL wants farmers, manufacturers and consumers to take the full benefits of the sugar products.

"The company is in the process of testing the market and consumer behaviour with the low-GI sugar," he said.

The company will continue to focus on technological innovations to develop more value-added products, which will help the Thai sugar industry grow in a sustainable way.


Forging cooperation with an innovative sugar expert paves the way for KSL to extend a range of its sugar products by offering the new sugar to people who are health-conscious.

The company teamed up with Singapore-based Nutrition Innovation Co, which was founded by an Australian scientist, in order to market low-GI sugar in Thailand.

Under the cooperation, KSL can use its partner's "Nucane", a patented technology that can produce low-GI sugar.

This new type of sugar is sold under the Kane's brand.

KSL adjusted its business to support the sales of low-GI sugar, which is expected to become more popular among global food and beverage producers in the future as they also want to offer "healthier" sugar to their customers.

"We see this trend and direct our business direction towards the innovative development," said Mr Chalush.

KSL currently runs five sugar manufacturing plants in four provinces -- Khon Kaen, Loei, Sa Kaeo and Chon Buri.

The company's factory in Loei is the first to produce low-GI sugar.

The facility in Sa Kaeo has been earmarked for a capacity expansion.

KSL expects to produce 148 tonnes of low-GI sugar this year and increase the amount to 2,000 tonnes in 2024.

"The delivery of sugar cane for crushing at factories in the 2022-23 crop year already ended, so we don't have many raw materials to produce low-GI sugar," said Mr Chalush.

"We believe we can increase production capacity next year when the new sugar cane crushing season begins in November 2024."

KSL aims to export low-GI sugar in the new 2023-24 crop year.

The company is aware of drought that threatens to reduce sugar cane output but believes it will not seriously affect its production.

KSL earlier expected sugar cane output for its factories to decrease by 10-15% to 5 million tonnes in the 2023-24 crop year because of the scarcity of water.

In the 2022-23 crop year, 6.4 million tonnes of sugar cane was produced.

KSL is ranked third for sugar sales in Thailand, behind market leader Mitrphol Group and Thai Rung Ruang Group.

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