Kraft Foods is expanding its range of products that are naturally sweetened with stevia with the launch of a low-calorie fitness beverage.
The Crystal Light Pure Fitness product uses Cargill’s Truvia brand of the calorie-free sweetener derived from the stevia plant - the same brand used by Coca-Cola in drinks such as Odwalla and Sprite Green.
Kraft already uses Truvia in its Nature’s Splash range and is among the food and beverage giants capitalizing on the growing stevia market. This was kick-started in the US in December 2008 when the Food and Drug Administration declared no objection to it being used as a sweetener in food and drinks.
Now US sales are estimated to reach $2 billion by 2011, according to market research firm Mintel, primarily fuelled by new products.
Earlier this month PureCircle, a producer of natural high intensity sweeteners, including stevia-derived Reb A, published an update on the global stevia market.
It said that according to Mintel, 102 new products sweetened with stevia have been launched in 2010, with 37 new products launched in March alone.
Japan remains the global leader in stevia product launches, with the US, South Korea, and Brazil showing increased activity in March.
Pure Fitness is described as the first nationally available low-calorie fitness beverage mix with no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or sweeteners, among mass marketed sports drinks.
It comes in packet form, in lemon lime, strawberry kiwi or grape flavor and is added to water. Its lack of artificial ingredients is being heavily promoted and it is also caffeine and gluten free.
Roxanne Bernstein, refreshment beverages marketing director at Kraft, said the product targets someone who is “very health minded, is looking to avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible” and is also physically active.
However, the sports drinks market in the US has been hit recently as the recession took a 12.3 per cent slice out of volumes, according Beverage Marketing Corporation data.
At the same time demand for natural, low-calorie sports drinks is also being met by other trends such as the growth of coconut water.
This clear liquid from the center of young green coconuts has been marketed as a healthy, natural alternative to sports drinks, as it contains vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, whilst being low in calories and fat-free.
It also has celebrity endorsements, including one from Madonna early this year who invested $1.5m in Vita Coco, one of the leading players on the American market.
Kraft’s Crystal Light brand Pure Fitness product is billed as a “great low-calorie beverage alternative” clocking in at 15 calories per serving, which along with Truvia, is sweetened with evaporated cane juice. It also has electrolytes to aid hydration during light physical activity.