Writing on Euromonitor’s analyst insight blog, ingredients analyst Lauren Bandy says that E960 – otherwise known as stevia extract or steviol glycosides – is unlikely to be held back by restrictions on calling it natural in Europe. The market researcher says that the European market overtook China to become the third largest global market for stevia in 2012, after Japan and the United States.
“Stevia, despite being another E-number, has innovation on its side,” she says.
While most new product introductions containing stevia have been in the beverage sector, dairy accounted for about 10% of new stevia launches in Europe last year, according to Euromonitor statistics. The organisation expects that proportion to double by 2016 as larger companies, including Arla and Danone, start using the ingredient.
“We believe the additional consumer marketing muscle of these types of players will establish stevia’s status over the longer term,” wrote Bandy.
Unlike in the United States, food and beverage makers are not able to label stevia as natural on product packaging, and some have suggested that this could restrict consumer acceptance of the sweetener, or hold back product development. However, Euromonitor says growth rates for use of stevia are ten times higher than those for other high intensity sweeteners, even though usage remains relatively low in absolute terms.
“Although it cannot be labelled as natural, stevia’s plant-sourced credentials are still something that manufacturers are interested in and consumers will want to believe in,” Bandy said.