"If advances can be made in promoting efficacy, reliability and quality of specialty yeasts, this will continue to drive expansion in the market," say the analysts. Prices for molasses, the raw material on which bakers yeast, among others, is dependent, have rocketed by 50 per cent in recent months on the back of shortages resulting from the EU's streamlined sugar regime. In turn, the bullish price hikes have driven a leading 10 per cent rise in yeast prices, requiring producers to pass on costs to the market. Leading yeast supplier Bio Springer, for example, announced double digit price increase for its extracts from January 2008, explaining that the cost of sugar molasses has increased by 10 per cent per year for the last three years. While the on-going reform to the sugar regime in Europe and the parallel imposition of quotas on sugar producers is key to the surge in prices for molasses, the price equation for yeast producers has also been impacted by the biofuel sector. A growing industry, biofuels compete directly with the yeast market for the same raw material, but not on a level playing field. Biofuel producers can pay farmers 'twice the price that yeast makers can afford', a factor that has 'greatly aggravated price pressures' in the European yeast market, writes Frost & Sullivan analyst Natasha Telles. In addition, bioethanol producers can slice into subsidies currently offered from governments eager to encourage growth for this fuel alternative. But a new sector is emerging out of the core commoditised European yeast market, worth €353m in 2007, that will help yeast players fight back to maintain revenues: the nascent area of speciality yeast products that cater for value-added and premium applications, notably health and wellness products. Seen as rewarding investment opportunities in "an otherwise commoditised European yeast market", leading yeast companies are currently applying modern science to the traditional process of fermentation to develop a sector "that can benefit from wider profit margins and a value-added premium image", adds the Frost & Sullivan analyst. Specific opportunities for the flourishing area of speciality yeasts lie, notably, in the demand from food makers for ingredients that tick the clean label box. Mounting consumer demand for natural ingredients has created considerable scope for yeast and yeast extract makers. "Yeast and yeast extract manufacturers must capitalise on this demand by providing customer centric products," attests Frost & Sullivan. According to the researcher, 'application profiling is the new buzz word' that sees formulations customised for use in particular applications. Such profiling is predicted to be one of the highlights in the success of this market, adds the analyst. Further, Natasha Telles claims that by developing into new application sectors, "the credibility of this industry and its viability will increase two-fold." "Most of the global manufacturers are looking into developing customer specific solutions as an opportunity to expand their product and business portfolio, by introducing a range of newer applications for existing products," she adds. For instance, the British yeast extract manufacturing company Synergy introduced Saporesse Plus in 2008, using yeast extracts in non-dairy applications such as confectionery. With regards to image and profile, the market analysts suggest that industry associations such as the Comite des fabricants de levure de panification de union Europeenne (COFALEC), and the European Association of Specialty Yeast Products (EURASYP), will play a key role in raising awareness of yeasts' nutritive profile and therefore contribute to growth for a market 'in a dynamic stage of growth'. According to the European Association for Specialty yeast producers (EURASYP), specialty yeast products include all products derived from inactivated, plasmolysed, autolysed or hydrolysed food yeasts. These extracts and compounds can be promoted for either their nutritional or flavouring profiles in the sector of food and agriculture. Products that fall into this emerging category include: food & feed yeasts; autolysed yeasts; high nucleotide yeasts; yeast extracts; yeast cell walls; and yeast beta-glucans.