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Sweet tooths driving global sugar shortage

A growing backlash against high fructose corn syrup in the US, a rise in demand from emerging economies, and adverse growing conditions are contributing to a global sugar shortage that's bound to hit consumers where it hurts -- their pocketbook and their sweet tooth.



According to the International Sugar Organization (ISO), global sugar demand has outstripped supply for the second season running this year, creating a deficit of 15 million tons, reported global market research group Euromonitor International last week.

Stocks are currently so low, says the ISO, that even next year's harvest is unlikely to restore reserves to a healthy level.

The shortfall is being blamed on a perfect storm of conditions that include either droughts or floods hitting major sugar-producing countries like Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Thailand.

Meanwhile, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is getting a bad rap in the US after high profile food writers like Michael Pollan and food advocates demonized the sweetener as a a highly processed substance that's more harmful to humans than regular sugar.

High-fructose corn syrup is one of the most common sweeteners found in processed foods and beverages that include sweet and savory items like breads, cereals, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments.

The fallout is said to be one of the major motivations behind the creation of Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback which are made with sugar instead of HFCS. Though initially launched as limited-edition products, PepsiCo took to Facebook this spring to announce they've become permanent additions to the range.

"Due to popular demand and the passionate support of our wall comments, we're thrilled to announce that Pepsi Throwback is here to stay!"

The trend away from HFCS and the return to beet and cane sugar -- pricier commodities -- are also being cited as factors for pushing up prices.

Emerging economies in Asia are also pushing sugar demand to the limits, with sugar and sweetener volume consumption soaring by 66 percent between 2005 and 2010 in India, the highest growth market. Demand has grown exponentially in Vietnam, Algeria and China as well.

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