The Malaysian-headquartered sweetener supplier launched its new steviol glycoside blend Sigma-D at the industry event HiE in Amsterdam this week – a global launch it hoped would see stevia move beyond reformulation efforts within soft drinks where the bulking function of sugar is relatively simple when compared to products like yoghurt. It claimed new product development time for companies looking to do this could be shortened by about 50-60% by the development.
Olivier Kutz, EMEA marketing manager for the firm, told us at the show: “The one category we haven't seen come to fruition yet and has been slightly slower on [stevia] adoption is dairy.”
He said traditionally the focus for dairy reformulation was fat – not sugar – and added if companies were to use stevia in yoghurt this would require clear communication to consumers to avoid confusion.
“Clarity is paramount. When you choose a pack on shelf you have three seconds. So what we recommend in terms of stevia launches – and there's been a couple of examples like Chobani in the US – is rather than communicating on calories from fat and calories from sugar, just communicate on total calorie counts.”
Nicky Plumpton, the firm's EMEA technical manager, said reformulating yoghurt and maintaining taste meant a dual sugar-fat approach since a 30% calorie reduction for an average yoghurt through sugar reduction alone would mean cutting out nearly all the sugar.
“Although we may sell more stevia there, we think that a better tasting solution is somewhere in the middle.”
The firm was showcasing a yoghurt at the event – although it said dairy drinks and other sweetened dairy products were also options with the proprietary blend.
No sugar, no fat, no taste
Plumpton said clients invariably came with initial demands for a no fat, no sugar solution, but she said although this was the ultimate aim they weren't there yet with dairy.
Kutz questioned whether consumers really wanted no fat, no sugar dairy products given the category's often indulgent positioning. He said taste and mouth feel were still important – meaning mid calorie could be the way to go.
In a presentation at the show, Plumpton used the analogy of full fat, semi skimmed and skimmed milk, suggesting a similar catering-for-all approach could be used when reformulating with stevia.
While she predicted 2015 would be the year of dairy for stevia, she said 2016 was likely to see “deeper calorie reductions” working from the current beverage reductions of 30% towards '50% less' claims.
Kutz said he envisioned a further mainstreaming of stevia, particularly considering recent launches from big brands like Wrigleys and Heinz.