Standing out from the sugar-reduction crowd

The market for health-conscious sweeteners within confectionery is continuing apace, as editor Neill Barston discovers, evaluating global markets.

Product ranges within the stevia-based market have been forecast for significant CAGR of 6.97 per cent between 2022 and 2027, rising some $245 million, amid sustained consumer demand for natural solutions within confectionery, according to a new study.

The report from the Technavio group stated that the APAC (Asia Pacific) region is anticipated to make up 36 per cent of the sector’s rise in fortunes, mirroring its wider economic development driving requirements for enhanced offerings across the wider food and drink sector. Furthermore, the study revealed that demand for natural sweeteners is on the rise as health-conscious consumers are looking for alternatives to artificial sweeteners that have been linked to side effects such as weight gain and diabetes. In addition, stevia stands out as the leading natural sweetener widely used in products such as baked goods, beverages, and snacks. This shift reflects the market’s growing preference for healthier options. Hence, these factors are expected to drive market growth during the forecast period.

Increased demand for stevia from the nutraceutical industry is a major trend in the market. As the study noted, countries such as India are witnessing increasing demand for sugar-free confectionery, beverages and sugar-free bakery products that have shown a strong marker for continued segment expansion. However, as the latest industry study revealed, the stevia market remains fragmented, as competition between major players remains strong, with the potential for new players to enter the segment considered to be a notable possibility. The major companies named in its analysis including Ingredion, Cargill, Sweegen, Tate & Lyle and ADM, have well-established economies of scale and market presence and generally rely on positioning technological advances, and the price of the products.

Moreover, Confectionery Production’s own reporting on the sector from major events around the world including ISM, Gulfood Manufacturing and Sweets & Snacks Expo (including fast-developing companies such as the UKraine’s Steviasun, have revealed a marked upturn in the number of emerging and key businesses that have expanded their product portfolios to embrace ‘next generation’ stevia series that have addressed consumers significant concerns over impact on taste from the use of such sugar replacement products.

As such, the latest iteration of product ranges are now considered by many market observers as being far closer in their flavour profiles than has been achieved in the past decade or so. As the report found, the stevia market is segmented application (beverage sector, food sector, and pharmaceuticals, as well as by type (powder extract and liquid extract), with distinct geographical differences appearing across Asia, North America, Europe, South America, and Middle East and Africa.

There is perhaps little surprise that the market is increasing turning to more better-for-you solutions beyond pure health reasons. This has been evidenced with the major inflation that is presently impacting on European sugar supplies in particular.

Significantly, this has led to Germany’s BDSI confectionery trade association expressing considerable concern over ‘all-time-high’ prices that are having a considerable impact right across the value chain. As the organisation noted, sweets and snacks manufacturers in the country ‘do not expect any relief’ from the huge spike in costs for the key ingredient – which increased a staggering 80 per cent year-on-year against market values in 2022. According to the BDSI, the EU Commission is expecting a slight increase in production volume of 6 per cent to 15.5 million. However, this is still far from being enough to adequately cover the European demand of consumers and the food industry of 17.5 million tonnes.

New product development

So, the use of effective sugar alternatives is showing no sign of diminishing, with the segment experiencing growth. Among key new advanced stevia-based sweetening solution has been unveiled from the Ingredion group, known as PureCircle Clean Taste Solutions, claiming zero calories as a core feature.

The company’s latest series, which is said to have a broad range of applications including across confectionery markets, comes amid a major continued shift in consumer preferences towards better-for-your product ranges within sweets and snacks. As its development teams explained, its latest series is also considered to have strong potential for additional markets including in bakery, dairy and sports nutrition segments to name a few, with its formulation said to be able to make greater use of stevia plants. “Removing sugar and artificial sweeteners in product formulation is not one-size-fits-all,” said Nate Yates, global platform lead for sugar reduction at Ingredion. “PureCircle Clean Taste Solutions are designed to streamline product formulation by delivering unique sweetness profiles required by food and beverage brands.

Moreover, another recent innovation this summer has been Tate & Lyle’s Tasteva Sol, a premium tasting stevia that reportedly has over 200 times the solubility of Reb M and D products on the market. Tasteva Sol solves for solubility challenges often found in beverage concentrates, dairy fruit preparations and sweet syrups at high sugar replacement levels. This innovation is aligned to growing customer and consumer demand as the market value of stevia is expected to increase by 13 per cent in 2026. As consumers continue to switch from full sugar to reduced sugar food and beverages, the perception and awareness of the benefits of stevia are increasing. In 2022, 32 per cent of US consumers were likely or very likely to buy a product which contains stevia leaf extract (up from 29 per cent in 2020).

Tasteva Sol labels as stevia extract in the US and follows labelling guidance for JECFA approved countries. Papao Saisnith, senior director, global marketing and innovation, sugar and calorie reduction, Tate & Lyle, concluded: “Consumers continue to shift from full sugar to reduced sugar foods and beverages and do not want to sacrifice taste. Tasteva Sol meets consumer needs as it provides a solution for manufacturers looking to formulate great tasting, clean label sugar reduced products where solubility often becomes a challenge.”

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