Stevia sweeteners that are high in rebaudioside A (Reb A) have garnered considerable interest this year, since the FDA issued its first no objection letters in late 2008. Beverage products containing extracts of the plant’s leaves have started appearing on product shelves.
But PureCircle, understood to be the world’s largest stevia supplier, is keeping a close eye on market potential. It commissioned an internet survey this spring to ask 1500 mothers aged between 24 and 49, main grocery shoppers for their families, what they think about sweeteners, brands, and product categories.
The 40-minute survey was conducted by Launchforce. It found that more than one in three respondents has already heard of stevia.
But Jason Hecker, marketing director of PureCircle, said: “Awareness is one thing, but having a positive impression of a sweetener is much more important.”
Launchforce CEO Tim Coffey said that from a qualitative perspective, it is apparent that “moms are being bombarded with sweet messages and they’re ambivalent about them”. The indication is that while mothers want to give their families something sweet, they are concerned about obesity and health.
The full findings of the survey are to be discussed at a live webinar, which will take place on 20th October at 10.30am CDT. More info is available at www.purecircle.com.
A number of other important markets outside the US have also opened up in the last year. For instance, France has approved the use of Reb A for a two-year period permitted under EU law; and Australia and New Zealand permit the use of extracts with high purity of steviol glycosides.
As for uses, beverages are first and foremost – but there has also been considerable interest in expanding to others. Table top sweeteners are a clear target, as are bakery good, dairy, and confectionery. The low glycemic index of stevia also makes it attractive for functional foods and products for diabetics. Firmenich and Danisco recently announced that they have overcome technical challenges to using stevia in ice cream.
PureCircle has been talking with the sugar industry about combining stevia and sugar, to make sweet systems that are low calorie but leverage the taste contribution and technical properties of sucrose.