New Product Watch: Stevia Update – What’s New?

Nearly three months after stevia was permitted for use in the 27 EU Member States we have seen its use in the EU grow from sweeteners to soft drinks, to chocolate and now, significantly, to organic yoghurt. This article highlights some of the recent health and wellness (HW) related new product launches.

Soft drinks with stevia launched in the EU

Multinational soft drinks players such as The Coca-Cola Co (TCCC) have said they are keen to launch stevia-sweetened carbonated soft drinks in the EU. However, apart from France where stevia-sweetened drinks were already permitted, a local brand in Poland has beaten them to it. In early February 2012, Zbyszko (PPH Zbyszko) introduced Polo Cola Slim sweetened with stevia, with 50% fewer calories than its conventional counterpart. From this launch Zbyszko will be hoping to increase its share of cola carbonates in Poland, which has fallen slightly from 1.3% in 2006 to 0.9% in 2011, the latter equivalent to just US$5 million. In order to keep up with local EU players, TCCC and other multinationals will have to quickly follow suit to prevent falling behind in the race to gain share in the all-natural, low-calorie soft drinks arena.

Zbyszko’s Polo Cola Slim with stevia


Stevia boosts HW chocolate confectionery

Sales of HW chocolate confectionery were valued at US$1.6 billion globally in 2010 but are set to rise to US$1.8 billion by 2015. After Barry Callebaut launched Sweet by Fruits, the first chocolate sweetened only with stevia back in November 2011, two Belgian chocolate brands, Balance Belgian Chocolate and Cavalier, have introduced stevia-sweetened chocolate in the UK. Interestingly, both brands have focused on the health benefits that stevia can offer. Cavalier, for example, claims that through the use of stevia the chocolate contains over twice the amount of fibre, a nutrient well known for its importance in aiding digestion, as well as higher levels of vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and iron. As its chocolate is also Fairtrade-certified, Cavalier is not only targeting health-conscious consumers but also those who are more ethically aware, perhaps justifying the product’s higher price tag. Nevertheless, these product launches will no doubt help to boost the 3% constant value CAGR forecast for HW chocolate confectionery over the 2010-2015 period.

Cavalier Belgian chocolate with stevia


Stevia widens opportunities for BFY organic

The most interesting new product development has been the introduction of stevia-sweetened organic yoghurt from Andechser Natur (Andechser Molkerei Scheitz GmbH) in Germany. The launch in Germany is perhaps unsurprising as the country has the highest retail sales of organic products in Western Europe, valued at US$2.9 billion in 2010.

Andechser Natur Stevia Bio-Jogurt mild with orange and sea buckthorn


Due to the nature of their production methods, high-intensity sweeteners could not previously be used in organic products. However, as stevia is naturally sourced it offers the potential to increase the number of organic, low-sugar products available. The orange-sea buckthorn flavour from Andechser Natur, for example, has only 9.6g of sugar per 100g and offers a low-sugar alternative to the likes of Rachel’s organic low-fat cherry yoghurt with 12.8g of sugar per 100g and Stonyfield Farm’s organic raspberry smooth and creamy low-fat yoghurt which contains 12.9g of sugar per 100g. No doubt as the taste profile of stevia sweeteners improves and it is able to be used in a purer state, we will see the growth of low-sugar, and low-carbohydrate, alternatives, not just in organic dairy but also other packaged food products.

While we are now witnessing the use of this natural, high-intensity sweetener in drinks, it is those consumers seeking naturally-based BFY packaged foods who will perhaps be the most pleased to see its arrival.