We know that zero-sugar drinks appeal to the weight-conscious among us and stevia is one of the key ‘clean’ sweeteners on the market. So, if you’re thinking of using it in your product, here’s the full low-down from the team at Delicious Labs
So what’s the main way we consume sugar in the UK? Forget cakes and sweets. In fact, sugar-sweetened drinks are the number one source of sugar for the general UK population, which is why of course the government took drastic action in April this year. Back in 2016, knowing the new sugar tax was looming, companies launched major research projects to determine the scale and cost of the sugar tax, re-thinking their recipes, looking for ways to reduce the sugar content and find high intensity sweeteners that would still taste great.
points out that, “The progress made in sugar reduction is promising, but drinks which have been reformulated should simply replace existing versions, not be marketed as brand new products that are ‘healthier’ or sold at premium prices.”
It’s not easy though, as shown by the Lucozade debacle last year. Yes, the company more than halved the drink’s sugar content (cutting it from 31g per 100ml to 11.3g) but customers were up in arms about the change in taste. As a result, sales plummeted by 8.4 per cent, year-on-year, according to The Grocer.
So, as a manufacturer, if you’re looking for a ‘clean’ label for your brand that will keep you in-line with the sugar tax but still ensure consumers repeat purchase, what are your options? Stevia, derived from the stevia plant, could be the answer but it’s not without its challenges. Here we explore the pros and cons…
1. Stevia contains zero calories. The sweeteners known as ‘steviol glycosides’ are extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant, which originates from South America. Stevia extracts taste 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, which means only very small amounts are needed in recipes. Other sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose tend to be used in larger amounts, according to Hermesetas, one of the leading high intensity sweetener producers, who have a stevia range.
2. It’s kind to teeth. Stevia (and other high intensity sweeteners) is great for dental health as it prevents one of the leading causes of tooth decay, fermentable carbohydrates, which promote bacterial activity and acid production in the mouth. Sweeteners like stevia work because they can’t be broken down by oral bacteria so no acid is produced. The European Food Standards Authority (EFSA)has confirmed the benefit of high intensity sweeteners such as stevia for teeth, explaining they aid “tooth mineralisation by decreasing tooth demineralisation” (demineralisation is a loss of mineral from the tooth’s enamel surface. This can lead to a cavity through which bacteria can infect the inner tooth. Several studies by the Dental Science Group at Purdue University, USA, have also shown that the sweetening components of stevia are fluoride-compatible and can help prevent new dental plaque forming.
3. Stevia reduces your glucose and insulin levels. Stevia (and other high intensity sweeteners) has been found to reduce the impact on blood sugar levels, which results in a lower daily level of glucose and insulin in the body, a claim officially approved by the EFSA. This makes it a great choice for diabetes sufferers.
4. Stevia needs careful formulation. Ann Williamson, Food Scientist at Delicious Labs says, “Stevia was only permitted for use in November 2011 (compared to aspartame which was approved for use in beverages by the EFSA in the early 1980s) so consumer pallets are still adjusting to the sweetness delivered by stevia, which is a less rounded taste than that of aspartame or sucralose.”
“There has been significant research, including sensory evaluations, to help create steviol glycoside blends which deliver optimal sweetness, while reducing the slightly bitter, liquorish after-taste,” explains Williamson. “Advances in masking technology and the approval of flavour enhancers (such as Erythritol) have also enabled developers to create beverages with a cleaner, sweeter taste.” “Stevia leaf sweeteners have come a long way since they were first commercialised as an ingredient,” agrees Carolyn Clark, Head of Marketing for PureCircle, the world’s leading producer of great-tasting stevia ingredients for the global food and beverage industry. “Not long ago, stevia was viewed as a plant-based, zero-calorie, single-ingredient sweetener which worked well in some beverage applications. Since then we have discovered many sweet ingredients within the stevia leaf, including Reb A, with a sugar-like taste and zero calories.”
A lot of this knowledge base was incorporated into the award-winning ‘clean energy’ drink FLYTE* that I co-founded with Jonathan Reeves. The beauty of Stevia is captured in the fact that through its sweetening power and inherent natural provenance, Flyte contains no added sugar and only 2g of natural fruit sugar per 100ml (less sugar than an apple), which comes entirely from fruit juice. All of this without any aftertaste but just pure, clean, refreshing energy.
5. Stevia is relatively expensive. Ann Williamson adds that stevia still costs more as an ingredient than popular alternatives, aspartame and acesulfame K. However, consumers may be willing to pay that little bit more for a drink they perceive to be purer and healthier, and as a producer, you get to market your product with a ‘clean’ label.
If you’d like to work with our expert team here at Delicious Labs, do get in touch. We will help you develop beverages your consumers will love, build a following and get proof of market, so you’re ready to scale.
CREATE – BRAND – GO TO MARKET
*Flyte is not the property of Delicious Labs
#stevia, #purecircle, #cleanlabel