Stevia was approved for use a sweetener in Europe in 2011, but has been used in France since 2009. Beverages now lead the way in new products, according to Châtelier, accounting for about 28% of new product launches.
Most drink companies so far have been offering 30% calorie reduction in their stevia-sweetened products, but Châtelier said that it was now possible to cut calories as much as 50%, without affecting taste.
“It’s going to be the big conversation next year,” he said, adding that Coke Life had already been launched in Argentina with a 50% calorie reduction.
In addition, Cargill has identified a target group of consumers who prefer natural products but are also seeking sugar reduction – a clear target for products containing stevia. The category has grown from a fifth of consumers four years ago to nearly a quarter of European consumers today.
Meanwhile, stevia has made fast inroads into the table top sweetener market, now accounting to about a third of all sales of table top sweeteners in Europe.