Obviously taste rules when it comes to any food or beverage. But many consumers are also looking for indications that what they’re eating has been minimally “messed with”—hence the growing incidence of “all natural” and related terms on product labels.
For stevia marketer PureCircle, offering a plant-based sweetener alternative appears to satisfy the “natural” requirement of many consumers, despite the vagueness of its definition.
“The idea of natural and definition is tricky because there is no standard or legal definition for natural,” Faith Son, vice president of global marketing and innovation, told FoodNavigator-USA during the recent IFT show in New Orleans. “It’s an important area that all of the food and beverage industry are wrestling with. Based on some of the proprietary consumer research we’ve done over the last five years, we’ve asked consumers what they believe to be natural, and ultimately it has something to do with coming from a natural source.
"Stevia ultimately is a plant. It’s grown; it’s an agricultural commodity. We believe that something that comes from a natural source is ultimately what consumers are looking for.”
And although PureCircle stevia works well in products blended with sugar or other high-intensity sweeteners depending on what manufacturers are looking for, stevia requires an application-specific approach—even more than with other sweeteners, Son noted.
“One of the big learnings we’ve had as a company is every formulation approach needs to be specific to that application, moreso than with other sweeteners,” Son said. “We’ve actually developed a customized approach called Stevia 3.0 that tries to specifically tailor to each application and deliver the taste profile consumers are looking for and make these products successful.”