Market for stevia continues to sweeten
- Stevia is gaining ground as a sweetener, with more adoption in beverages, a push for use in emerging markets, and new glycosides with different functions being discovered.
- The most common glycoside molecule, Reb A, is still being heavily used because of its low price point. However, suppliers say that new glycosides with new flavors are now being used in combination with Reb A.
- Stevia suppliers think that as food manufacturers switch to the new version of the Food and Drug Adminisitration-mandated nutrition facts label, they will also be switching to the plant-based sweetener. The new label requires manufacturers to indicate how much sugar has been added, and because stevia is generally sweeter, less is required.
Stevia's popularity has been taking off, and producers are working to increase volumes and taste of the sweetener. Persistence Market Research estimates the global stevia market was $347 million in 2014, and will increase to $565.2 million by 2020. The stevia plant is sustainable and easy to grow almost anywhere.
Companies are investing in stevia to make it the sweetener of choice for more products. At last month's Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo, stevia producer PureCircle announced an additional $100 million investment in its PureCircle Agronomy Program. The investment, according to a press release, will go toward expansion efforts in more than 15 regions around the world, developing the company's farming footprint outside of China. Earlier this year, Sunwin Stevia announced plans to establish a U.S. distribution center. In the last year, Cargill has also jumped into the stevia business.
While stevia is getting more popular and supply is ramping up, it still has not been able to break into baking. While sugar provides flavoring to baked goods, it also is used to bulk up dough, and has functional properties. While different stevia companies are trying to reformulate recipes to allow for stevia use, this hurdle to adoption still looms tall over the industry.
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