With the improvement of health awareness, sugar substitutes gradually enter into our life. However, people are afraid of the chemical compounds made in the laboratory due to their side effects. Therefore, natural plant extracts are becoming more popular than ever and stevia is such a product that can satisfy consumers' needs.
Stevia is a "pioneer" in natural sweeteners and has been used for centuries. As early as 1500 years ago, Guaranís in South America began to consume stevia, which they called ka'a he'e ("sweet herb"). Japan is the first country to develop and use stevia, which accounts for approximately 40% of the sweetener market in Japan and its safety has been confirmed in some way. In the United States, many international brands have also launched stevia-based beverages and foods.
Products containing stevia
Since 2012, the number of new products containing stevia has almost doubled. In the second quarter of 2017, the foods and beverages containing stevia on the global market increased by 13% compared to the same period last year. Candy and chewing gum is the fastest growing category using stevia, with a growth of 125%
Coca-Cola, Danone, Kraft Heinz, Nestle and PepsiCo have all put new products using this natural sweetener on the market, including snacks, dairy products, ready-to-eat cereals, carbonated drinks, fruit juice, etc. The following Lay's fresh tomato flavor and lime-flavored potato chips have also used stevia.
Stevia has a wider application in beverages. Carbonated drinks and fruit juice beverages containing stevia has increased by 27% compared to the same period of last year, and energy drinks increased by 102%.
In 2013, Coca-Cola launched the green packaging coca-cola-life in Argentina and Chile (perhaps because of the tradition of stevia used in South America). It uses stevia to replace 40% of the sugar, as a result, it can reduce 40% of calories in the ordinary cola.
Its new packaging in 2018 highlights the “naturalness” of the stevia, which can better adapt to the consumers’ preference for natural extracts. However, there are also some consumers pointing out its bitter aftertaste, and that is the biggest drawback of stevia.
Application difficulties and new breakthroughs
Stevia can not be a perfect substitute for sucrose due to its certain defects. Reb A stevia extract is most widely used in food and beverage, however, low purity of Reb A can produce uncomfortable taste, while high-purity Reb A (such as RA95 to RA99) has a low solubility, which limits its application in beverages.
Meanwhile, there are still many companies developing new type steviosides. For example, the Optimizer STEVIATM series developed by SGF has similar or even better taste than high-purity Reb A stevia extracts. Cargill and Evolva's Fermented Stevia EverSweet may emerge in 2018.