Stevia suppliers are gearing up for action in Canada after Health Canada gave industry the green light to use steviol glycosides as table top sweeteners and food additives in food and beverages on Friday (November 30).
Prior to this, stevia was only available as a Natural Health Product, but can now be used in a wide range of categories including beverages, breakfast cereals, gum, breath fresheners, bakery products, desserts, fruit and nut spreads and confectionery, Jason Hecker, VP global marketing and innovation at stevia supplier PureCircle told FoodNavigator-USA.
PureCircle: Stevia can help reduce calories and offset rising commodity costs
He added: “PureCircle and our customers have been preparing for some time in anticipation of Canadian approval. Our entire line of stevia ingredients, including Stevia 3.0 - our most recent innovative approach to formulation development - fully meets Canada specifications.”
Sidd Purkayastha, VP business development and regulatory affairs, said: “Stevia will play an important role in addressing consumer interest in lower calorie products and natural ingredients, as well as to help offset rising commodity costs for our customers.”
Sweet Green Fields: We have been very active with potential customers in Canada…
Fernando Gonzalez, VP, global business development at stevia maker Sweet Green Fields, said SGF had also been "active with potential customers in Canada".
He added: “We figured it would be a matter of time before the approval came so there was proactivity from SGF and customers alike.
“Having created the distribution system for SGF in the US, Europe, Mexico, South America and parts of Asia, we know there is a lag time between introduction and launch times. Anticipation will pay dividends in products launched.”
Shaun Richmond, director of sales at stevia supplier GLG Life Tech Corporation, which is based in Canada, said GLG had seen a "significant increase in projects" in Canada over the last several months.
He said: "Although numerous food and beverage companies have been proactively working with the ingredient prior to this notice, this forthcoming approval provides the confidence required for many of these organizations to invest further in the R&D and formulation work and expedite these projects. We have distributor partners in place to service the Canadian market and believe this substantial number of new food and beverage projects now formulating with GLG stevia will be met with much demand from Canadian consumers."
Although carbonated soft drinks are the biggest market for stevia (with notable recent launches including the reformulation of Fanta in China in February 2012 and Sprite in France in April 2012), there have also been new launches in confectionery, ketchups and dairy in recent months.
And while the USA still accounts for a large percentage of sales, sales to Europe, China, Mexico and Brazil are growing rapidly and regulatory approvals from India, Thailand and South Africa are expected in the coming months.
Stevia today is not what was on the market three years ago
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA as part our October special edition on natural sweeteners, PureCircle’s Jason Hecker said the stevia products available on the market now are very different from what was available even a couple of years ago.
“Stevia today is not what was on the market three years ago; we’ve made dramatic leaps in terms of quality.
“Stevia 1.0 was stevia extract, which was uncharacterized and variable. Then you had stevia 2.0, or high-purity Reb-A [steviol glycoside Rebaudioside-A], which was consistent product. Now we have stevia 3.0, where we’re developing other ingredients from the leaf as well.”
Large-scale adoption will be apparent in 2013 and 2014
Encouraging growth in usage suggested “large scale adoption will be apparent during calendar years 2013 and 2014”, he predicted, citing Datamonitor figures.
“Up to August 2012 food and beverage product launches with high purity stevia are running at a rate of 1,000 new launches for calendar 2012, a 65% increase over 2011.
“Longer term we remain confident that stevia will emerge as a major global industry.”
Health Canada’s consultation document on the use of stevia as a food additive was published for a 75 day comment period ending on October 14.
Mark Brooks, global consumer products director for Cargill's Truvia stevia brand, said Cargill's data on the safety of steviol glycosides was "pivotal" for substantiating their safe use in food and beverages in Canada.
He added: "With the Canadian market opening, we can now fulfill consumer demand for Truvia sweetener in Canada and are expecting to be on shelf early 2013."