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Stevia has been quietly gaining traction with consumers and its demand has been surpassing established sweeteners, according to Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research.
The value of stevia as an additive for use in food and beverage manufacturing totalled $110 million in 2013, according to Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research, and it is expected to rise to $275 million by 2017.
In contrast, the research firms expect aspartame, while recently having been ruled safe for human consumption at current levels from the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) and currently accounting for a value of £280 million in 2013, will drop to £210 million by 2017 as stevia and blends of stevia and other sweeteners such as acesulfame K begin to take a greater market share.
In 2009, only 5% of food and drink products launched using intense sweeteners used solely plant-derived sweeteners (although a further 2% used a blend of artificial and plant-derived sweeteners), the report said. In contrast in 2013, the share of plant-derived sweeteners jumped to 15% (with a further 3% used a blend of artificial and plant-derived sweeteners). Between 2011 and 2013, plant-derived sweeteners reached a high of 28% of launches in North America.
"Signs that the global market for intense sweeteners has reacted to this increased demand for ‘healthier’ sweetener solutions is already evident," said Laura Jones, a food science analyst at Mintel.
According to research, global market for intense sweeteners as additives used in the manufacturing of food and beverage products will reach a value of $1.27 billion for full-year 2003, up 2.8% compared with 2012. By 2017, global market value is expected to increase to almost $1.4 billion, up by 9.7% from levels in 2013.
However, breaking down the usage of intense sweeteners in new product launches shows that today, artificial variants, such as acesulfame K, sucralose and aspartame are still dominant, Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research said.
Due to its use in blends, the report said acesulfame K leads in launch activity, however, the share of products using acesulfame K has gradually declined from 56% in 2009 to 49% of launches in 2013. Sucralose takes the second spot and its use has remained constant over the past five years, found in around 40% of all products launched with an intense sweetener. Aspartame comes in next, however, its share is consistently dropping year on year, going from being used in 40% of 2009 launches to 32% of 2013 launches. Categories still heavily reliant on artificial variants include sugar confectionery, desserts and ice cream, dairy products and carbonated soft drinks.
"As manufacturers work to create the right taste profile for stevia and for other plant- derived sweeteners, such as monk fruit, to obtain regulatory clearance, the artificial sweetener market still offers growth opportunities, in particular the sucralose and acesulfame-K markets," said Emma Gubisch, strategic insight manager at Leatherhead Food Research.
The global market for all sweeteners (intense and bulk) as additives in food manufacture—rather than sold to consumers at the retail level—was worth more than $2 billion in 2012, according to the report. Value sales have started to pick up again as the worldwide economic situation has improved, with the global market up by 3.8% from $1.94 billion in 2010.