If current trends continue, stevia-based sweetener Truvia will be eyeball to eyeball with sucralose-based rival Splenda in the US retail tabletop sweeteners market within two years, brand owner Cargill has predicted.
Mark Brooks, Truvia global consumer products director, was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after Truvia was launched into Venezuela, South America’s second largest market.
Truvia consumer products (which combine stevia leaf extract and erythritol) are now available in seven countries while Truvia is used as an industrial ingredient in 50 brands from more than 100 customers in 13 countries including Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Mexico, he revealed.
There is not another tabletop brand that is truly global
“In the US, Truvia has captured 65% of the natural tabletop sweeteners market and we are now the number two in the overall sugar substitute tabletop market behind Splenda, which had 65% of this market when we entered it and now has around 35%.
“If we carry on at the same trajectory, we’re looking at getting to parity with Splenda within two years.”
While Truvia faced competition from brands such as Candarel Green, Stevia in the Raw [stevia and maltodextrin] and Purevia [stevia plus erythritol, isomaltulose and cellulose powder] in some markets, “there is not another tabletop brand that is truly global”, said Brooks.
“What has been amazing in Venezuela is to see how the Truvia brand really transports globally.”
After less than four years on the US market, Truvia had turned the sweetener category on its head and helped revitalize a previously stagnant retail segment, he added: “It has brought a lot of growth for retailers in a relatively quiet aisle in the grocery store.”
Nearly 50 million households in the US have purchased products made with stevia-based sweeteners from Glaceau Vitaminwater Zero to Nestea, up from 43m a year ago, he added.
“Truvia is used in more than 30 Coca-Cola products all over the world and we now have major brands such as Kraft Crystal Light Pure [low-calorie powdered beverage mixes] and Smucker’s Sugar Free Fruit Spreads using the Truvia co-branding on their packs.”
He added: “When stevia sweeteners were first used in the US you would see big companies doing line extensions but still protecting their core brands to avoid taking risks, but today you see they are introducing them to major brands such as Sprite and Fanta [Truvia-sweetened mid-cal drinks Sprite Select and Fanta Select are being test marketed in the US].”
More products are also being developed in cereals, yogurts, bars, confectionery and ice cream as well as carbonated soft drinks and flavored waters.
58,000 hours of applications development
As to how major food and beverages manufacturers select stevia suppliers, typically they will factor in a consistent specification, security of supply, traceability from field to table and formulations expertise - as well as price, he said.
“We’ve invested 58,000 hours in applications development. But we have also invested tens of millions of dollars in brand building and consumer awareness.”
While some observers have described the stevia supply market as the Wild West with swarms of opportunists entering the market and sending prices into a spin, firms the size of Kraft and Coca-Cola want to work with suppliers with whom they can build long-term partnerships, he said.
"Things are quite exciting on the fringes of the stevia market, but we just tune out all the noise and stay focused and plan for the long-term."
Monk fruit was on our radar
As for competition from rival all-natural sweetener monk fruit (luo han guo), there is room in the market for several natural sweeteners, he said.
But he added: “We looked at multiple sources of natural sweeteners including luo han guo and while it was on our radar, we saw some challenges from a supply chain perspective.”