Globally, the number of products that carry a reduced sugar claim has slipped over the past few years, the market researcher said at an IFT presentation in Chicago last month. However, low and reduced sugar claims saw a big spike in Europe last year following regulatory approval of stevia in the region in November 2011.
Mintel trends and innovation director, David Jago said that the number of global new product introductions containing stevia in 2013 looked set to exceed those in 2012.
“We see a broad range of stevia sweetened products on the market,”he said.“...We still see it most in soft drinks and part of the reason for that is consumers are motivated by it. One in four consumers are concerned about the health effects of artificial sweeteners and would like to see more natural low calorie options.”
Of more than 1,000 stevia-sweetened products on the market in 2012, about half were available in Europe. According to Mintel, the European market accounted for a quarter of all new stevia-containing product launches, up for just 4% in 2011.
Pepsi Next is one high-profile brand sweetened with stevia to allow reduced sugar content. Marketed to full-sugar Pepsi drinkers who don’t like the taste of sugar-free Pepsi alternatives, the 30% reduced sugar brand was released in Australia in September 2012 and in France in March 2013.
“Big brands like that are going to help spur other brands,”Jago said.
Rival cola brand Coca-Cola has also released a reduced sugar, stevia-sweetened cola – Coca-Cola Life – in Argentina, but unlike Pepsi, it has chosen to play up the stevia content in its advertising and green coloured packaging.
Jago added:“The focus isn’t going to go away on covert reduction. We call it ‘stealth health’. It does seem to work, but it is all about reduction and not elimination. Consumers aren’t scared of sugar. They are just scared about too much sugar.”
According to World Health Organisation recommendations, less than 10% of an adult’s total food energy should come from added sugars. The UK’s Food Standards Agency combined this with data on the sugars intrinsically found in milk, fruits and vegetables, and came up with a 15 g per 100 g limit, above which a food would be considered high in sugar.