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Law applies from 3 November 2016

Stevia sector says imminent EU law changes will sweeten NPD

By Lynda Searby , 26-Oct-2016
Last updated on 26-Oct-2016 at 19:03 GMT2016-10-26T19:03:43Z

Removing Reb A restrictions will allow better tasting formulations, say stevia palyers. ©iStock
Removing Reb A restrictions will allow better tasting formulations, say stevia palyers. ©iStock

An amendment to the EU food additives regulation has removed the requirement for stevia blends to contain at least 75% stevioside or reb A, giving food and beverage manufacturers scope to formulate better tasting stevia-sweetened products.

Regulation (EU) 2016/1814 , which enters into force on 3 November, amends the specifications for steviol glycosides set out in an annex to regulation (EU) No 231/2012.

Under the old legislation, stevioside and/or reb A had to be the principal component (75% or more) in stevia sweeteners. The remainder could be made up of any of the ten steviol glycosides named in the annex: stevioside, rebaudiosides A, B, C, D, E and F, steviolbioside, rubusoside and dulcoside.

The updated regulation has removed the 75% restriction and added reb M to the list of permitted steviol glycosides. Now, food and beverages manufacturers can use any combination of the 11 approved steviol glycosides in any inclusion ratios.

Greater sugar reductions possible

The stevia industry has welcomed the new regulation, claiming it will give them more freedom to help food and beverage manufacturers to make further sugar reductions without compromising taste.

“By removing the restriction on the amount of reb A and stevioside content in a sweetener, better tasting stevia sweeteners can be made. The new regulation helps in reducing more sugar without sacrificing taste in foods and beverages,” Sidd Purayastha, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, at PureCircle, told FoodNavigator.

He added: “With reb A or stevioside as the major sweetener, it is a challenge to reduce more than 30-50% sugar due to the non-sweet taste that such stevia sweeteners contribute. The new regulation will provide a chance to improve the sweetness profile at a higher rate of sugar reduction.”

Competitor Cargill said in a press release: “The updated legislation opens doors for European food and beverage companies who want to reduce calories without compromising a great taste.”

Cargill claimed the existing legislation “limited the ViaTech sweetener options available to food and beverage manufacturers in Europe”.

ViaTech is a line of stevia sweeteners that uses a proprietary taste-prediction model to determine optimal combinations .

Beverages main beneficiaries

Whilst the legislation applies to all food and beverage categories, PureCircle predicted that the beverage and dairy sectors in particular would benefit from the relaxed requirements.

Low-sugar products like Coke Life may benefit from the law change.

Cargill agreed that beverage applications would be a receptive target for improved stevia blends, saying: “European food and beverage companies will be able to rely on the broader portfolio of Cargill’s ViaTech stevia sweeteners to help them achieve optimal sweetness and dramatic sugar reductions in their most challenging applications, like carbonated soft drinks.”

Coke Life is an example of a product that could potentially take advantage of the change in law. In April, Coca Cola changed the recipe so that the stevia-sweetened drink contained 45% less sugar than regular coke, instead of 33%. The new regulation could open up opportunities for further sugar reductions in this type of product.

Market acceptance

Maria Teresa Scardigli, executive director of the International Stevia Council, said she hoped the deletion of the 75% requirement would provide consumers with “better tasting products” with a greater chance of market acceptance.

“There have been cases of stevia-sweetened products that have not been well accepted by consumers because reb A and stevioside have very particular taste profiles. Now, manufacturers should be able to achieve much better taste profiles by using different steviol glycoside combinations and ratios.”

She added: “In addition, these combinations offer greater flexibility to food and beverage manufacturers to formulate products that range from reduced sugar to full sugar replacement. The combinations of any steviol glycoside in any ratio allow for greater sugar reduction in the manufacturing of food and beverage products.”

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