Stevia's Uncertain Future, Glaceau's Cautious and Quiet Approach

Last Updated Sep 25, 2009 2:53 PM EDT

Nine months after the Food and Drug Administration proclaimed that two zero-calorie sweeteners derived from the stevia plant were Generally Regarded As Safe, stevia is bigger than ever. The food industry has introduced more than 110 stevia-based products since then, and stevia sales hit $95 million by July -- up from $21 million for all of 2008.

But though people continue to throw around phrases like "the holy grail of sweeteners," problems remain. A majority of consumers have still never heard of the sweetener. Furthermore, as companies struggle with different formulations to counter unpleasant aftertastes, there is a danger that a customer's bad experience with one stevia product could turn them off of stevia for good.

Glaceau made the interesting choice of using stevia in its Vitamin Water 10 but not bragging about it; Rebiana (the stevia extract) is listed in the ingredients panel, but there's no effort to advertise the fact. Someone who thought they hated stevia could wind up hooked on Glaceau's water before they even realized stevia was in it.

A full 11 percent of people say they distrust stevia and will actively avoid it, according to research by Mintel. Another 11 percent have tried and liked it -- leaving a large majority whose minds and taste buds are still up for grabs.

Meanwhile, food developers are working on cracking the code to making stevia work in ice cream.
Related Stories on BNET Food: Price, Taste and 'Natural' Status Still Hurdles for Stevia Stevia Presents Bitter Challenge FDA Gives Stevia Green Light to Cargill, Merisant

  • Katherine Glover