The number of new products sweetened with stevia extracts in the EU shows a “significant uplift” on last year according to David Jago, Mintel director of innovation and insight.
More than 200 launches of products containing these extracts occurred in the first few months of 2012, Jago told FoodNavigator, against “only a handful” during the whole of last year.
Table top sweeteners using stevia showed the biggest number of new launches, at 80. Chocolate confectionery followed at 50 launches, with soft drinks next at 45 and dairy fourth with 25, he said. “I see more than 200 as a significant uplift. Nestle, Arla and Danone are getting increasingly involved and I think we will continue to see quite a lot of introductions [during the rest of the year]. There is a lot of space still for geographical roll-outs.“ There had been very little activity in the cake category.
Outside of soft drinks, Jago saw the biggest potential for products incorporating stevia extracts in the dairy sector. “Dairy offers some of the first gains. You are seeing some big brands get interested in that area. It is one of those areas where the low sugar category is quite strong.”
For example, Danone was in the process of rolling out its DanVia yoghurt, sweetened with stevia extract, to a number of international markets and Arla had launched drinking yoghurts sweetened with stevia extracts.
By contrast, confectionery offered limited opportunities, because low sugar offerings were a niche category aimed at, for example, diabetics, said Jago.
Companies were not necessarily using stevia to reformulate products, but were instead using it to extend their range with new launches, he said.
In the case of beverage firms in particular, this was because they were nervous about damaging core brands if consumers reacted badly to taste differences. “There is a lot of caution in the market. There are exceptions, for example, Sprite has been reformulated using stevia, as has Lipton Ice Tea.” Jago also said Vitaminwater Zero, which contains stevia, had sold very well in the US.