The United Arab Emirates’ largest dairy and juice producer Al Ain Dairy tells BeverageDaily.com it is the first company in the region to introduce stevia into juices produced in the country.
Zero-calorie sweetener stevia only recently became available in the UAE, Al Ain said, and was diabetic friendly, gluten-free and Halal certified, factors that prompted the company to formulate the sweetener in its new range of dietary juices.
The firm's new Green Cocktail Nectar (pictured) blends mango, apple, kiwi and lime juice, while added stevia enabled a 30% reduction in sugar, the company said; the beverage is being sold in 1.8 liter, 1 liter, 500ml and 250ml PET bottles.
Asked to what extent concerns were growing in the UAE regarding beverages (especially juices) that were high in sugar, Al Ain Dairy's PR manager, April Dawn Hobbs, told BeverageDaily.com that the country faced many health challenges.
Rising obesity rates
These stemmed from rising obesity rates in the region, she explained, particularly in relation to high cholesterol and diabetes, driven by excess consumption of fast food and many sugary beverages.
"The UAE is active in trying to address obesity in the region through education and awareness and Al Ain Dairy wishes to play their part in the process by reducing sugar content in its products and by introducing dietary related dairy products," she said.
"All of our research tells us that there is a growing demand for healthier products as people become more health conscious."
Hobbs added that further reductions in added sugar (given that fructose occurs naturally in fruit juices) were possible, but that Al Ain recognised issues with the bitter aftertaste left by stevia.
"So we do not see it as a total replacement just yet – but it’s a start and a 30% reduction is certainly better and healthier," she said.
Kingston Fernandez, head of sales at Al Ain Dairy, said: “Al Ain Dairy is delivering on its plan to meet the changing tastes of our consumers, and Green Cocktail Nectar fills a much-needed gap in the market for new and unique flavor combinations.
“As the market leader in dairy and juices, we have committed resources to identify what our customers want and what the market needed.”
Al Ain said it had also conducted further market research into consumer preferences, and planned to deliver further sugar-reduced juices, alongside a complete range of dietary dairy products.