Mintel expects stevia’s star to keep rising, with consumers becoming increasingly aware of its natural and zero-calorie status.
And it may become an advantageous ingredient for manufacturers if governments continue to pursue taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.
Stevia extract has become a prominent sugar alternative, tapping into consumer demand for natural ingredients and reduced calories.
And the adoption of the sweetener by giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo (most notably Coca-Cola Life and Pepsi True) has propelled stevia further into the limelight.
According to a Mintel survey carried out last year, more than half of US respondents claimed to have used products made with stevia.
“As well as its widespread use in high profile brands such as Coke Life, stevia has benefited from consumers’ view that its plant-based origins mean it is a less artificial ingredient than sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose," added Turner.
US holds the lead in stevia beverage launches
Product launches with stevia can be found across F&B categories, including beverages, snacks, dairy and confectionery.
In terms of beverage launches, the US has maintained its lead but European countries and other nations are also turning to the sweetener.
"Formulations including stevia have increased annually across introductions in non-alcoholic beverage categories globally from 2011 to 2015,” Jenny Zegler, global food and drink analyst at Mintel, told BeverageDaily.
“In particular, between 2011 and 2015, the use of stevia increased 487% in global non-alcoholic beverage launches.
Some of the drinks using stevia include:
Coca-Cola Life Glaceau
Vitamin Water Zero
“The US has held a consistent lead in terms of non-alcoholic beverage launches made with stevia, but growth is being shown in Germany, Mexico and Canada when comparing 2011 with 2015.
"The growth in stevia's use in Germany reflects the European Union's approval of stevia in late 2011 as well as Germany's fondness for products with health and wellness positioning.”
When looking at categories, carbonated soft drinks have been one of the consistent leaders in launches with stevia, Zegler said. However, in 2015, ready-to-drink (RTD) iced tea accounted for a similar share of launches as CSDs.
In addition, meal replacement beverages entered the top three, accounting for 14% of non-alcoholic beverage launches with stevia in 2015.
“The prominent use of stevia in carbonated soft drinks, RTD iced tea and meal replacement beverages reflects the focus on calories that is important to consumers in each of the segments,” Zegler added.
Stevia’s future looks bright
Zegler identifies a number of factors that could prove to work in stevia’s favor in the future.
“Based on its recent performance, Mintel expects stevia to remain a popular sweetener in non-alcoholic beverages in the coming years,” she said.
“This is influenced by approval in more countries as well as rising consumer awareness of stevia and its natural and zero-calorie status.
"In this era of government intervention, stevia may become more attractive to manufacturers to help make drinks more affordable than those sweetened with sugar"
Jenny Zegler, Mintel
“Furthermore, stevia may become more of an advantageous ingredient if governments continue to pursue taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.
"In this era of government intervention, stevia may become more attractive to manufacturers as well as consumers not only for formulation, but also to help make drinks more affordable than those that are sweetened with sugar and, therefore, may be subject to taxes."