The taste of stevia-derived sweeteners has come a long way in just a few short years, and the major stevia suppliers are now focusing on cutting sugar by half in mainstream soft drinks.
Coke Life in Argentina uses stevia to cut 50% of the sugar from the original Coke formula, while in Europe, Nestea and Sprite are among the biggest brands to use stevia sweeteners to slash sugar content – both by 30%.
But stevia suppliers’ know-how around steviol glycosides (the sweet components in the stevia leaf) has grown rapidly in recent years. At the FIE show in Frankfurt, Cargill – the company that makes Truvia – introduced a stevia-based sweetening system that it says can help companies reduce sugar in soft drinks by up to 50% without any of the bitter or liquorice-like aftertaste associated with earlier stevia extracts.
Dubbed C Sweet HMS, the system combines steviol glycosides with maltose syrup and sugar (sucrose), and can be labelled on ingredient lists as ‘glucose syrup’.
“We are really going for a reduced calorie claim,” Cargill marketing communication specialist Guillaume Planque told FoodNavigator. “We have developed this solution because we have seen in recent years that if you are new to the beverage market, nearly one third of new products have a reduced calorie claim.”
Compared to the standard combination of stevia and sugar, the ingredient system could result in a 20% reduction in cost, he added.
Meanwhile, stevia supplier PureCircle also says it is targeting 50% sugar reduction in soft drinks, although for the best taste in other products like yoghurt and ice cream, it says a 30% reduction is probably more realistic at the moment.
“We think you can get a really good tasting 50% sugar-reduced beverage now,” said EMEA PureCircle marketing director Sue Bancroft.
“We have become very, very clever at blending [stevia extracts] to get to the right taste profile….We have a portfolio of different solutions and the innovation pipeline is still coming.”
She added: “In beverages, having a zero-calorie soft drink that’s natural is still something we are striving to achieve, but only if it tastes as good as the regular cola.”