The stevia market seems to be maturing as stevia is becoming increasingly mainstream. After beverage giants like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo embraced this sweet calorie free gift from nature, now other companies are following suit. Heinz and Lipton are too jumping on the bandwagon by investing in stevia.
But according to BeverageDaily.com and Mintel there is a whole lot more potential for steiva out there. Currently only stevia’s steviol glycosides, which are up to 300 times sweeter then sugar, are used to sweeten food and beverages. They are used as an additive and lack some of the potentially positive health benefits ‘whole’ stevia extracts could offer. Some of its benefits include alleviating liver and kidney damage, inducing hypoglycemic effect by reducing glucose and insulin levels, and improving antioxidant levels in rat livers. In Brazil stevia is also used to treat diabetes.
Laura-Daisy Jones, Mintel global food science analyst, therefore argues that stevia has a whole lot more potential and comments: ”For now, stevia will remain popular as a no-calorie, ‘natural’ source of sweetness. However, as more evidence reveals stevia’s full nutritional benefits, work to retain these active components during its extraction process could mean in the future that stevia-based sweetener may be able to combine functional health benefits alongside their reduced offer of calorie-free sweetness,”
The one major issue holding this back seems to be regulatory approval. Both the US and Europe have only approved highly refined stevia extracts to date, which can only be used as a food additive. Considering the complex regulatory regime in the US and Europe alone getting stevia to be approved as a whole leaf ingredient along with the health claim will probably be a long crusade.
Interestingly thought this has not halted market acceptance of stevia. It is undeniable that the market is craving a need for a natural and zero-calorie sweetener, especially in many developed regions with high rates of obesity and diabetes. Stevia has long ventured from its local grounds such as Paraguay Brazil and Japan. The proof is in the pudding as product launches containing stevia increased with 732% globally between 2009-2013. Other factors which are leading to its broader market acceptance are improvements in stevia’s taste profile due to better breeding and refining techniques along with increasing distrust of artificial sweeteners by consumers. Also be sure to see what Dr. Paul Haider has to say about stevia’s potential health benefits…