- Research firm Mintel shows that the use of stevia in new food and beverage product applications is rising, reports Food Business News.
- The percentage of products launched containing stevia in the second quarter of 2017 rose more than 13% compared to the year-ago period, according to Mintel’s research.
- As of August, stevia was an ingredient in more than a quarter (27%) of new products launched using high-intensity sweeteners this year. Among the new product launches, the top categories using stevia were snacks, carbonated soft drinks, dairy, juice drinks and other beverages.
Stevia use is increasing in all sorts of products because of its high-intensity sweetness and easy sourcing. Manufacturers such as Pyure and Apura Ingredients, a supplier of various sweetener options, have been quick to bring different stevia-based products to market as sugar falls out of consumer favor. A growing number of food companies are using stevia as a fill-in to reduce sugar content in their products without compromising taste or mouthfeel.
Stevia is naturally 30 to 40 times sweeter than sugar with zero calories. This natural potency means a little goes a long way, so brands can use far less of the ingredient. Stevia is also relatively easy to grow and can be cultivated nearly anywhere. And, unlike previously popular artificial sweeteners like aspartame, stevia is 100% natural, meeting consumers' clean label desires.
According to Food Business News, Apura said several attendees at this past year’s Institute of Food Technologists expo expressed interest in the steviol glycosides Reb D and Reb M because they tend to be better-tasting that the more common Reb A. Some commercial challenges exist, however, because of the low levels of Reb D and Reb M found in the stevia leaf.
“Reb D has garnered a significant amount of interest in the tabletop industry due to a sweetness profile that is less bitter and has less of an aftertaste than Reb A,” according to a statement by Apura. “Reb M, which some claim is the best-tasting rebaudioside, is most conducive in beverage applications. …Future trends will most likely shift to a blend of rebaudiosides that are customized for food or beverage applications that focus on taste and cost efficiencies.”
Companies are looking for efficient ways to isolate and extract the more palatable Reb D and Reb M at a commercial scale. Different approaches include breeding plants with more of the glycosides, new extraction techniques, using genetically engineered microbes to convert sugar into glycosides, and using enzymes to transfer glucose molecules from starches to steviol glycosides extracted from leaves.
PepsiCo is seeking to patent a new stevia production process to product Reb M through an enzymatic method that delivers higher purity at a lower cost. In addition to PepsiCo, a growing roster of food companies are reformulating products or launching new ones using stevia, including Coca-Cola, DanoneWave, Kraft Heinz, Nestle and Unilever.