Coca-Cola and PepsiCo products made with stevia
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have recently launched new products sweetened with stevia.

KANSAS CITY — Product developers have a number of technical issues to address when considering sugar reduction options. Adding to the complexity is consumer interest in ingredients perceived as “clean” or “natural.”

Demand for such additional attributes is fueling the use of a variety of ingredients. For example, the use of stevia in new beverage and food product applications is expanding, according to data from Mintel Group Ltd. commissioned by stevia manufacturer PureCircle Ltd., which has a U.S. office in Oak Brook, Ill.

The percentage of food and beverage products launched containing stevia in the second quarter of 2017 increased more than 13% versus the comparable period in 2016, Mintel said. Companies launching new products with the ingredient include the Coca-Cola Co., DanoneWave, Kraft Heinz Co., Nestle S.A., PepsiCo, Inc. and Unilever P.L.C.

DanoneWave products made with stevia
In July, DanoneWave introduced yogurt sweetened with stevia.

The top five categories in new product launches with stevia in the second quarter of 2017 were snacks, other beverages, carbonated soft drinks, dairy and juice drinks, Mintel said. Among the categories posting the highest growth rates were “sugar and gum confectionery” with a 125% increase and “sports and energy drinks” with a 102% increase.

Additionally, the use of “natural origin” sweeteners is climbing, Mintel said. As of August, stevia was used in 27% of new products launched using high-intensity sweeteners this year.

Mark Eisenacher, vice-president of marketing and sales for Pyure Brands, Naples, Fla., sees stevia use continuing to grow.
Mark Eisenacher, Pyure Brands
Mark Eisenacher, vice-president of marketing and sales for Pyure Brands

“We anticipate significant growth in the marketing for stevia and sugar reduction,” he said. “The regulatory environment is finally favoring better-for-you products — look at the soda taxes, new Nutrition Facts Panel, even the 2015 U.S.D.A. dietary guidelines that call for limits on sugar intake. Unfortunately, the regulatory changes are a result of some serious health issues affecting millions of Americans — diabetes, obesity, heart disease, (and) hypertension. More and more consumers are paying attention to what they eat or drink and becoming more aware of the harm a diet full of sugar can cause. Sugar and artificial sweeteners are in everything, but change is coming. It will take time.”

A point of differentiation Pyure Brands promotes is its ingredients are certified organic and Non-GMO Project verified.

Pyure Brands stevia
Pyure Brands offers products made with organic stevia.

“We tend to focus on the products and product categories that are ahead of the curve when it comes to sugar reduction,” Mr. Eisenacher said. “These categories include nutritional bars, nutritional shakes and powders, specialty beverages like kombucha and tea, dairy and alternative dairy, and specialty products like water enhancers hydration mixes.

“More importantly, we focus on brands and products that offer superior, value-added organic, non-G.M.O. products like we do. In that way, we tend to identify customers that are aligned with our product offering, expertise, and want the best tasting organic stevia solutions.”

Pyure Brands offers both a branded retail variety of its products as well as commercial varieties for food and beverage manufacturers. Mr. Eisenacher noted the company’s participation in both market segments contributes to its go-to-market strategy.

Interest in alternative rebaudiosides from the stevia leaf, specifically Reb D and Reb M, is growing.

“ … We know firsthand the challenges facing all stakeholders interested in sugar reduction,” he said. “Sugar is in everything, and, let’s be honest, tastes really, really good. It’s not easy to switch people, so we recognize the uphill battle facing brands and products featuring stevia to achieve sugar reduction. Ultimately, we have the same goals as our commercial customers: to offer better-for-you solutions and encourage positive choices.”

Following IFT17, the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and food expo, held this past June in Las Vegas, executives with Apura Ingredients, Inc., Chino, Calif., a supplier of a number of sugar reduction options ranging from acesulfame potassium, aspartame, monk fruit, stevia, sucralose and others, identified an interest from expo attendees in alternative rebaudiosides from the stevia leaf, specifically Reb D and Reb M.

“Reb D has garnered a significant amount of interest in the tabletop industry due to a sweetness profile that is less bitter and has less of an aftertaste than Reb A,” the company said. “Reb M, which some claim is the best-tasting rebaudioside, is most conducive in beverage applications. Both Reb D and Reb M are challenging to commercialize due to the low levels that are in the stevia leaf. Future trends will most likely shift to a blend of rebaudiosides that are customized for a food or beverage applications that focuses on taste and cost efficiencies.”