The chocolate supplier conducted quality tests with Real Stevia and signaled its "approval" for the ingredient in stevia-sweetened chocolate.
Real Stevia’s managing director, Sophia Horn af Rantzien said the move opened doors Barry Callebaut to reach out to more businesses that can add stevia sweetened chocolate to their portfolio.
“The approval has been a long process in several stages, including testing of organoleptic properties and production process auditing,” she said.
However, details regarding how Barry Callebaut uses for its portfolio have not been determined yet, according to Rantzien.
Sustainably sourced stevia
The Real Stevia product that Barry Callebaut has approved is a purified stevia extract derived from the stevia leaf, said Rantzien.
“The sweetness of the extract is at least 250 times sweeter than sugar,” she said.
Real Stevia sources its raw material from China and Paraguay, according to Rantzien.
In both countries, the company follows the stevia leaves from the farmers, through the collection points, into the warehouse, through production and all the way to their customers, she said.
“This traceability not only allow us to quickly react to potential future problems but also to turn every stone on a daily basis to continually improve and make sure our operation is truly sustainable.”
Concerns of stevia’s aftertastes
Rantzien admits there used to be concerns that the taste of stevia was not good enough, and critics say it creates a bitter licorice-like aftertaste.
However, she said stevia and sugar is an excellent mix as they work in synergy to improve taste and sweetness.
“In most product formulations, a 50% sugar reduction won’t affect the taste of the products,” Rantzien said. “What WHO and FDA are saying is that society must cut down on the sugar intake, not give it up, and a 50% reduction in sugar goes a long way both for the food and beverage industry and consumers.”
Europe is a tough, yet increasing market for stevia
What’s interesting to Rantzien is that previous research shows the age group buying most stevia sweetened products today are women between 30 to 49 years old, but the age group that are most positive towards stevia are between 18 to 29 years old.
“The young generation will continue to drive the move away from sugar and artificial sweeteners,” she said.
However, compared to North America, Europe is a tougher market for stevia from a legislative view, and is also a very fragmented market, Rantzien said.
“The approval for stevia extracts came in 2011, three years after the US approval and some markets are now leading the adoption of stevia in Europe, notably Great Britain and Scandinavia. But stevia-use is picking up at increasing speed all over.”
Globally, the market for stevia is expecting to grow 8% to 17% over the next 20 years, Rantzien added. So working with large chocolate companies, like Barry Callebaut, is important for Real Stevia to quickly gain market share.