The agave nectar industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the sweetener industry and the organic industry in general. This article will discuss where the agave syrup is produced, and give a brief overview of the recent history of agave nectar production, and the future of the agave nectar industry.
The blue agave plant, which is the same plant used for tequila production, is mainly cultivated in the central Mexican state of Jalisco, and in some regions of the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas. All blue agave plants are cultivated in these states because Mexican law stipulates that for agave-based liquor to be labeled as Tequila, it must be made from blue agave cultivated from these specific states (very similar to how Champagne needs to be made in the Champagne region of France). For the production of agave syrup, it does not matter where the plant is cultivated (no certification like Tequila enforced for agave sugar), although it is extremely likely that the agave plants will be from Jalisco, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacán, or Tamaulipas. It is possible to grow the agave plant in any areas that offer a semi-arid climate and proper elevation.
Currently, the supply of blue agave is abundant as plantations in the late 1990’s started to dramatically increase the number of agaves planted. This increased plantation was caused by a worldwide surge in demand for Tequila, which caused the price of the agave plant to rise in the late 1990’s. The increased plantation of blue agave plants has been dramatic; between 2000 and 2003 over 300 million agaves were planted, nearly four times what the industry usually needs (Noel, 2008). Given that most agave plants are harvested when they are seven to eleven years old, there is currently an abundance of blue agave in the marketplace, and agave plant prices have dropped considerably. This high supply of blue agave ensures that there will be significant supplies for the production of agave sugar for the next several years.
Most of the agave nectar is manufactured in Tequila, Jalisco or Guadalajara, Jalisco, where a well-established Tequila infrastructure has helped develop the growing agave nectar industry. These factories that produce agave nectar use a very simple heating method in order to maintain the organic certification of the product.
A huge and rapidly growing market The agave nectar industry is a growing market that has an estimated production of 3,000,000 gallons per year (Noel, 2008). This growth is fueled by the public’s growing awareness of the negative health aspects caused by using artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, and high fructose corn syrup. The market has responded by switching to alternative sweeteners that are natural and healthier: agave syrup, stevia, etc.
The ‘other alternative sweetener’ industry in the United States, which only includes fully-natural sweeteners (agave nectar, stevia), had annual retail sales of $38 million in 2008, estimated 2011 sales of $72 million, with projected annual revenue of $102 million in 2013 and $145 million in 2018 (Freedonia, 2009). The growth in the ‘other alternative sugar’ industry is due to the growing demand for organic food products, and consumer trends towards healthier eating.