The Biggest Challenge for Stevia Extract as an Ingredient
San Antonio, TX, Dr. Priscilla Samuel, Director of the Global Stevia Institute (GSI), said that to date, an impressive 5000 plus stevia extract sweetened food and beverage products have been launched globally in a relatively short period of time, as the food industry is demanded to be part of the solution in helping to reduce the burden of disease, specially obesity.
Dr. Samuel stated that being a zero-calorie, plant based natural sweetener, stevia extract is a natural-origin sweetener, 350 times sweeter than sugar, which gives it a unique position in the market. Stevia extract is currently being used as a tool to reduce energy and sugar intake, which can contribute to reduce overweight. “For those looking for great tasting foods, made with natural-origin and sustainable sweeteners that provide sweet but help control the extra inches and pounds as part of a healthy diet, stevia extract sweetened foods and beverages are a great option,” she said.
For Dr. Samuel, stevia extract has still some challenges as an ingredient. As a fairly new sweetener for most people, its awareness is relatively low around the world. “However, as new products are launched and the science behind stevia extract is increasingly known and understood, I expect that the awareness and acceptance of stevia is likely to increase dramatically,” she said.
Samuel said that there is also another challenge for stevia extract. “Since some initial product offerings were made with highly purified Rebaudioside A (one of the steviol glycosides present in stevia extract, which are responsible of its sweetness) which in some cases has a licorice of bitter aftertaste, it turned some costumers away from stevia extract,” she said. However, according to Samuel, science and technology has come a long way regarding stevia extract and scientists have discovered new sweet molecules from stevia leaves, advancing farming methods, conventional plan breeding programs, and optimizing solutions for new food and beverage applications. “As a result, the newer better tasting stevia extract sweeteners still meet the regulatory requirements of steviol glycosides purity, are no bitter and offer consumers the opportunity to experience stevia extract in a new light,” she said.
Dr. Samuel added that many people are still concerned about stevia extract’s naturality because in many countries the term “natural” in the context of food and beverages is not formally defined by regulatory authorities. However, she says, stevia extract is now grown in four continents, and in countries including Paraguay, Argentina, Vietnam, India and the United States. “As the science and technology continues to develop around stevia extract, and its familiarity and understanding as a sweetener increases, I do believe that some of these questions and concerns will be minimized. The opportunity of stevia extract in foods and beverages is still in its infancy. I expect that our scientific learnings about stevia extract will continue to grow and that science and technology will help to bring many more innovations to the marketplace,” she said.
SVETIA® Calorie – Free Sweetener is made with cane sugar and stevia extract. One packet of SVETIA® contains only one gram of carbohydrates. People with diabetes are advised to check with their registered dietitian or physician.