Stevia market to surge as soon as customers know about it?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 22nd September 2009

It’s stevia’s year. All-natural and calorie-free, stevia is poised to become the “holy grail” of sweeteners, according to the latest report from market researchers Mintel.

Since December 2008, when the FDA approved use of rebaudioside A (an active ingredient of stevia) in US food and beverage, the stevia market has erupted in that nation. The same can’t be said in Australia, however, with the buzz around stevia failing to ignite here despite the ingredient receiving approval from FSANZ in October.

US sales surge

By mid-July in America, stevia sales topped $95 million, a substantial increase over the $21 million achieved in all of 2008. Mintel predicts the stevia market could exceed $2 billion by the end of 2011 as the world’s largest beverage manufacturers enhance their portfolio of beverages.


“The FDA’s approval of stevia in food and drink opened the door for this market’s explosion,” David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel, noted. “New product activity has accelerated in recent years, and since most categories with stevia applications remain untapped, we expect many more stevia-infused product introductions in the next few years.”

In the first eight months of 2009, Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) monitored the launch of more than 110 US food, drink and healthcare products made with stevia. Annual new product activity for stevia more than doubled between 2007-2008.

The portrait for stevia’s success isn’t completely rosy, however. Mintel’s consumer survey reveals nearly 70% of Americans have never even heard of stevia. More than six in 10 (62%) say they have no interest in trying stevia, and 11% say they think stevia is unsafe and they plan to avoid it. One could only guess that such figures would be even worse in Australia.

“Step one is for manufacturers to get the word out. At this stage, heavy demo-ing of stevia products in stores, along with copious distribution of free samples, are just as important as promoting stevia’s all-natural, zero-calorie positioning,” Mr Browne advised.

Flavour remains another obstacle to stevia’s growth. Companies are aggressively perfecting formulations and seeking better source material globally, but this means one stevia-based product won’t taste the same as the next. “If someone tries a stevia-sweetened drink with an off-putting aftertaste, it’s logical to assume that person will be a tough sell for stevia products in the future,” Mr Browne said.

The research, which follows hot on the heels of a similarly bullish Rabobank assessment of stevia, also found that 25% of people indicate they might be interested in stevia, but they haven’t tried it yet. Just over one in 10 (11%) say they have tried stevia and plan to continue purchasing it.