In 1970 the total consumption of [nutritive + non-nutritive] sweeteners in the USA was 12 Mt; in 1990 it was estimated to be 17.4 Mt, i.e. an annual 69.2 kg per head. Tabulated data show that the most striking change during this period was in HFS consumption, which increased from 0.3 kg/head in 1970 to 8.2 kg in 1980 and 22.3 kg in 1990; refined sugar consumption simultaneously declined, from 46.2 kg/head in 1970 to 28.4 kg in 1990, but this is now tending to increase again, as there is little scope for further replacement by HFS. Consumptions of corn syrup and glucose have remained almost constant. Saccharin consumption peaked in 1980 and has since decreased by >50%, while the consumption of aspartame has increased rapidly since its introduction, reaching 6.6 kg/head in 1990. Other non-caloric sweeteners (acesulfame, sucralose) may soon be authorized for use, and it is forecast that by 2000, non-caloric sweeteners will occupy 17% of the total market. The increased use of sweeteners in various sectors of the market is examined. By far the greatest increase has occurred in soft and alcoholic drinks, owing to the introduction of HFS and non-caloric sweeteners; nearly 50% of soft drinks are now labelled 'diet'. Increases in total use in bakery products, confectionery, dairy products, processed foods and other sectors, where sucrose is still the main sweetener used, were relatively small. The past decade has been a period of mergers. US government policy, which favours the domestic production of beet sugar, led to a decrease in raw sugar imports and hence to the closure of some cane sugar refineries. Refiners have tried to expand into other sectors of the market. Amstar, the largest refiner in the USA, took over a beet sugar firm and a small factory producing maize syrups, and later was itself taken over by Tate & Lyle, which already controlled Redpath Sugars (in Canada) and Western Sugar and had recently acquired A.E. Staley, one of the 4 main producers of maize-derived sweeteners in the USA. Savannah Foods purchased beet sugar factories, while Imperial Sugar merged with Holly Sugar. Consumer attitudes to sugar are discussed. Since the publication in 1986 of the FDA report (which stated that the current level of sugar intake presented no danger to health), the percentage of consumers expressing anxiety about the effects of sugar on health has decreased from 20 to 18, while those showing anxiety about fats, cholesterol and calories in the diet have more than doubled.