BATH, UNITED KINGDOM — Zenith International, a food and drink consulting company based in Bath, estimates worldwide sales of stevia reached 3,500 tonnes in 2010 for an overall market value of $285 million, which marked a 27% increase from 2009. According to a forecast in its “2011 Zenith Report on Stevia,” the global market for stevia will reach 11,000 tonnes, equivalent to $825 million by value, by 2014.

“As rising levels of obesity and diabetes continue to dominate headlines, there has never been so much emphasis on reducing our caloric intake as well as consuming healthier foods and beverages,” said Anya Hembrough, senior market analyst for Zenith International. “After persistent efforts by key producers, legislators worldwide are finally giving the green light to this new zero-calorie sweetener.”

Zenith International anticipates European authorization for stevia’s use in foods and beverages in 2011. Stevia has been used as a sweetener in Japan and parts of South America for decades. Zenith International said a turning point in stevia’s use came in 2008 when the U.S. Food and Administration said it had no objections to the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of a specific stevia extract for use as an ingredient in foods and beverages.

“Since then, approval by legislators across the world has opened the door to new formulations and reformulations of foods and beverages with zero or reduced-calorie content,” Zenith International said. “Its status as a global ingredient was secured with its incorporation into leading soft drink brands manufactured by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.”