Taste profile and cost could threaten stevia success story, analyst

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Stevia, Soft drink

Taste profile and cost are the biggest potential obstacles to widespread stevia uptake within the European Union (EU) soft drinks industry, an analyst has warned.

On November 11 the European Parliament rubber-stamped approval of the sale and use of steviol glycosides in foods and beverages.

But Euromonitor International senior research analyst, Ivan Uzunov, issued the following warning in a company podcast: “Despite the enthusiasm, some analysts still warn that stevia has to overcome issues of taste. Some say that its liquorice-like profile is a deterrent to some consumers.”

Entrenched conservatism

There was also entrenched conservatism amongst some consumers, who might not like the change in taste of their soft drink brands, Uzunov added.

“In response to the taste issue, there are new innovations occurring. For example, blending stevia with other sweeteners to address the taste concerns,”​ he said.

“The high price point might also prove to be an obstacle for the forecasted fast growth of the stevia-sweetened beverages. However, there is no doubt that stevia will cause significant stir in the industry in the near future,”​ Uzunov added.

Uzunov reminded listeners that stevia extracts were not approved worldwide, with use of the natural sweetener limited and even banned in countries such as Singapore.

Weight management potential

Various forms of stevia extracts were available in parts of the European Union (EU) until now, but only as dietary supplements controlled by medicine authorities in each country, he said.

Stevia had gathered such widespread interest amongst manufacturers because of rising demand for low carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives, according to Uzunov.

Its health benefits included a negligible effect on blood glucose, weight management properties, evidence that it improved mental health and memory and anti-diabetic properties, he said.

Despite potential taste issues, Uzunov said that stevia had advantage due to its close taste profile vis-à-vis sucrose.

He said: “The health properties are not the only reason why stevia is superior to other sweetener types. There are quite a few barriers when selling low calorie beverages, but the taste issue is the largest.

“Low calorie products have a perception of inferior taste and don’t sell too well, so many ingredient producers are currently working hard on the ingredients to enable greater fat or sugar reduction.

Stevia opened a “field of experimentation”​ in that respect, Uzunov added, due to its weight management properties, “one of the most important issues facing the health and wellness industry, a massive market worth more than 100bn [in Europe].”

Regular carbonate woe

The non-alcoholic beverage market in Europe was hard hit by the global economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, Uzunov said, but had rebounded strongly over the past two years.

At the same time the market in Eastern Europe recovered completely in 2009 from the drop in 2008, and grew by a further 9 per cent during 2011.

The market in the west accounted for a total of €82bn euro, Uzunov said, while in the east sales reached €32bn. However, there was a different dynamic within the various non-alcoholic drinks segments, he added.

“The fastest growing segments are sports and energy drinks, low calorie beverages, and all products with added health properties – reduced caffeine, reduced sugar, etc.," ​Uzunov said.

“On the other hand, the sales of regular carbonates, other concentrates and other unhealthy products are decreasing.”

From that point of view, stevia-based products promise quick success to their producers in a market where consumers were becoming increasingly health conscious, he added.

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3 comments

Sweet Revenge

Posted by john,

The pace of change is slow in corporate America. The fickle consumer is slow to change and relies heavily on information fed to them by the media and obscure sources. The documented dangers of Asp. and Splend. are out there. We live in a society controlled by vested interests, market caps and investor returns. Folks need to take responsibility for what they consume and spend accordingly.

Buying the Stevia products is all that is needed. Asking restaurants for Stevia Packs would change everything. Truvia every day is beginning to break through the wall of it being accepted. Acceptance will lead to demand. Then slowly the methanol and chlorine-based toxic products will be pushed to the back off the shelf.

There will be a point in time where the low use will build backlog and then price dumping will keep it around. An outright ban will not occur as that admits guilt and guilt has a price.

Try Stevia - or one of the stevia sugar blends. Their time is coming. The article does not degrade or down play stevia. It states a fact. Stevia still has reputation of having a bad taste. But industry has developed masking principles to make it acceptable. The folks consuming the other sugar substitutes have accepted the taste difference of their current choice.

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Taste threatens Stevia

Posted by Jim Currie,

Stevia sales will be driven buy customers who want an all natural low calorie sweetener. The Japanese, Koreans and South Americans have had Stevia-sweetened drinks for years and I would think Japan probably has cracked problems with taste. Although this is an assumption.

Blending with other artificial sweeteners defeats the purpose of stevia. Reduced sugar drinks with flavours I am sure will solve any taste problem. Price is cheaper than sugar so any reduced sugar drink will have lower costs.

It is not intended to take on Ace K and others which are relatively much cheaper. Stevia will find its market in weight management and healthy lifestyle products.

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What a bad article

Posted by Richard Wicks,

It's already proven in Japan, where stevia is used widely as a sweetener, by companies like Coke-a-Cola, and Pepsi. You can always depend on a research analcyst to give you bad information.

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