- The global stevia market is growing, with an estimated market size of $337.7 million in 2015, according to a report by Grand View Research.
- Almost 35% of total stevia volume in 2015 went toward beverages. The second largest stevia application was food products, and 22.2% of it went toward foodservice tabletop sweeteners. Stevia is expected to replace artificial sugar-based sweeteners in the next seven years.
- Asia Pacific was the largest global stevia market in the survey, but it is expected to take off more in Europe and North America in light of recent FDA approvals.The U.S. stevia market is projected to have a 4.5% CAGR from 2016 to 2024.
The plant-based sugar alternative is getting more popular as consumers want to cut their sugar intake and try a more natural sweetener. And while whole-leaf stevia or crude extracts are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, glycosides extracted from the leaves and several highly refined forms of stevia are generally recognized as safe by the agency and can be used in products.
One reason that stevia growth is expected to explode in the United States is the soon-to-come revamped Nutrition Facts label, which will require all food products to explicitly list added sugars. The beverage industry may have the most difficult time with this, since many sodas and other beverages have plentiful added sugars. Stevia is naturally sweeter than sugar, so less is needed to provide the same benefit. However, soft drink companies have found themselves battling with stevia's aftertaste when working on new formulations.
Still, the industry is working to move ahead and positioning itself for growth. The stevia plant is sustainable and can easily grow almost anywhere. PureCircle, which is a major producer, announced a new processing plant this week. This plant, expected to come online in early 2017, will increase the company's stevia leaf extract output by 50%, and should double its stevia production capacity.
And stevia is popping up in more places. Earlier this month, Starbucks announced packages of stevia-based Nature Sweet will start appearing in almost 9,000 shops in the United States and Canada.