Artificial flavors are viewed with increasing suspicion by consumers and the trend towards natural ingredients is putting increasing pressure on additive suppliers to develop ingredients from natural sources, the report published by UK-based consultancy Leatherhead Food International found. The Food Additives Market Global Trends and Developments report estimated global sales of food additives to be $23billion in 2007 and food flavors represented nearly 30 per cent of value sales. The additives market as a whole grew in value by just over 3 per cent a year between 2004 and 2007 and is expected to grow by 2.5 per cent per annum over the next three years. But the future strength of the market could lie in the potential for innovation when it comes to natural flavorings, fruit flavorings with added functional benefits and ethnic flavors, particularly in the US. Jonathan Thomas, principal market analyst for Leatherhead, told FoodNavigator-USA.com: "The main trend globally is the move towards more natural products with less of a processed look and feel. "If you look at the new product activity that is taking place at the moment, free from artificial colors and flavoring is becoming a lot more widespread. "I think that is mainly responding to consumer concerns over artificial additives in their food." Heroes and villains? The issue around 'villainization' of ingredients has caused a storm across the Atlantic where the US supermarket Asda is facing legal action over its 'no nasties' label in the UK that appeared on its 'Good For You' range. This listed the sweetener aspartame as an undesirable, alongside artificial colors and flavors and hydrogenated fat. Ajinomoto Sweeteners Europe launched a defamation law suit against Asda saying it was absurd to refer to aspartame as a "nasty". Aspartame has been permitted in foods and beverages in both the EU and the US since the early 1980s but questions have been raised over whether it is entirely safe, with studies linking the ingredient and cancer in rats. Previous research also showed that aspartame consumption can cause neurological and behavioral disturbances in sensitive individuals. However The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) last year reasserted its view that there is no credible scientific evidence for ill-effects. Other companies also promote 'no nasties' ingredients, such as Pret a Manger's mango and mandarin fruit drink which is billed as containing "no sodium benzoate, no aspartame, no nasties".