Consumers’ desire for a natural ingredients and ‘clean’ labels have contributed to the growth and adoption of stevia as naturally sourced zero-calorie ingredient for food and beverage products. Companies are frequently using stevia to overcome challenges associated with reducing sugar and calories, while maintaining great taste in their products.
The stevia plant is nonGMO, is part of the sunflower family and its leaves are naturally sweet. The stevia plant originated from South America, and it is now grown around the world, most notably in Kenya, China and the US. High-purity stevia leaf extract is currently approved for use in food and beverage products in more than 150 countries, and over 200 studies support stevia’s science and safety. To get to the best tasting parts of the stevia leaf, the extract goes through a process of extraction and purification. In a recent study published on June 19, 2017 in International Journal of Food Science and Technology researchers found the sweet components of the leaf, called steviol glycosides, remain unchanged through the commercial extraction and purification process. This highly purified stevia leaf extract can then be added to the great tasting products consumers love. Stevia currently sweetens over 10,000 products around the world including soft drinks, juices, waters, flavored milks, yogurts, baked goods, cereals, salad dressings, sauces, confections, tabletop sweeteners and more. In 2016 alone, close to 3,000 products launched globally with stevia, with the beverage category growing by 20 percent and the food category growing by 9 percent.*
Given the growing global concerns about obesity and diabetes, beverage and food companies are working responsibly to reduce sugar and calories in their products, responding to both consumers and health and wellness advocates. The sweetener from the stevia plant is a powerful tool which is being used to help companies find a plant-based solution to formulating new low to zerocalorie food and beverage products.