Stevia: The Holy Grail or fail for chocolate?

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Stevia Sugar substitute Sugar

Stevia is a green plant orginating from the border area between Paraquay and Brazil
Stevia is a green plant orginating from the border area between Paraquay and Brazil
When stevia sealed EU novel foods approval in December 2011 it was heralded as the holy grail of sweeteners, but has it lived up to all the hype for chocolate?

Adrian Sagman, vice president of international sales and marketing at Carmit Candy told this site “People have seen that you can’t replace 100% ​[of sugar] in every formula because of its bitterness, but you can reduce sugar by 50%.”

“Maybe not the holy grail that people thought – but a reduction nowadays is a nice way of progressing.”

He said that stevia really needed to be blended with other sweeteners like isomalt and maltitol to give a more rounded sweetness akin to sugar.

Stevia bulking properties

Rinus Heemskerk, global director of innovation for ADM Cocoa, said that the sweetness wasn’t the main problem – it’s the bulking function. “Stevia is a very interesting product but it’s not the easiest to use.”

He said that sugar serves two functions in chocolate: sweetness and bulking. “The tough one is to replace the bulking function. Stevia is only providing the sweetness; it doesn’t provide the bulking function.”

Using fibers to give volume

Felix Verdegem, CEO of Dutch chocolatier Cavalier, which created a stevia chocolate with Barry Callebaut, previously told this site that fiber blends were required to give stevia chocolate its structure.

He said the blend that Cavalier uses - a mix of FOS (Fructo-Oligosaccharides), Inulin and Dextrins – made the final chocolate product three times more expensive than one produced with sugar.

 Heemskerk added that “The beauty of sugar is that it gives you a very clean sweet taste without any side flavors. Unfortunately stevia has quite a few of those side flavors like licorice. The non-sweet flavors that come with stevia that you need to mask are an issue that needs to be solved. That limits the use of stevia.”

Callebaut talks up benefits

However, Marijke De Brouwer, innovation manager at Barry Callebaut talked up the advantages of stevia at a recent company visit.

She said that stevia could be used to produce a sugar free or reduced sugar (up to 80-90%) product that was light in calorie, did not give a laxative effect.

Other sweeteners, such as maltitol and sorbitol, are known to produce a laxative effective if consumed in large quantities.

Barry Callebaut produces a chocolate that uses Reb A extract from the Stevia plant and a blend of dietary fibres and polyols tha allow up to 90% sugar reduction.

De Brouwer said that Steviol glycosides were zero calories and a chocolate manufacture could claim 30% less calories if it used stevia rather than sugar as it limits uptake of calories from fat and sugar.

She said that stevia chocolate worked best in thin chocolate tablets, but was also held potential as inclusions such as in chocolate chips for cookies.

Stevia launch trends

Global stevia launches in all categories grew 400% between 2008 and 2012 and 158% between 2011 and 2012, according to market analysts Mintel.

The majority of chocolate launches containing stevia in 2012 came mostly in Europe (44%), followed by Asia (33%). North America and Latin America each only accounted for 11% of stevia chocolate launches last year.

David Turner, Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said: “Taste issues and also the fact that Stevia is much more expensive than artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, suggest that rather than replacing sugar entirely with Stevia, it will be more effective to use a blend of sugar, Stevia and other additives – at least until consumers get more used to Stevia’s taste​.

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1 comment

Never mess stevia with tea products

Posted by Tea Expert,

Tea or tea related products are the focus for this BevShow. Both exhibitors and visitors came from all over the world to share ideas and taste the different brands. Some bottled tea products claim “all natural” and use stevia as sweetener, to some people’s disappointment, it causes the product lose its original elegant tea flavor, and makes things worse, it gives a bitter after taste. Stevia’s tasting profile has been a serious drawback for these products, I would never mess it up with tea products. If you are a real “all natural” person by any means, why not stick with pure water and tea? What else is more natural than these two products of great nature? Wait a minute, isn’t our sense of flavor another product of nature? Our sense of tasting is one part of human nature, and it has also become one part of our culture, too. As we sacrifice our tasting benefits to meet the “all natural” requirements, are we put horse before cart? In my humble opinion, use some non-nutritional sucralose as sweetener to solve this issue, you don’t digest any calories from this sweetener but still get you sweet teeth satisfied, that means you just borrow the sweetness from it but not keeping any of it in your body, so you are not violating any rules of the “all natural” principle.

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