According to Mintel, stevia is poised to become the "holy grail" of sweeteners.
Since December 2008, when the FDA approved use of rebaudioside A (an active ingredient of stevia) in US food and beverage, the stevia market* has erupted. By mid-July 2009, stevia sales topped $95 million, a substantial increase over the $21 million achieved in all of 2008. Mintel predicts the stevia market could exceed $2 billion by the end of 2011.
In the first eight months of 2009, Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) monitored the launch of more than 110 US food, drink and healthcare products made with stevia. Annual new product activity for stevia more than doubled between 2007-2008.
The portrait for stevia's success isn't completely rosy, however. Mintel's exclusive consumer survey reveals nearly 70% of Americans have never even heard of stevia. More than six in 10 (62%) say they have no interest in trying stevia, and 11% say they think stevia is unsafe and they plan to avoid it.
Flavor remains another obstacle to stevia's growth. Companies are aggressively perfecting formulations and seeking better source material globally, but this means one stevia-based product won't taste the same as the next.
Mintel reports that 25% of people say they might be interested in stevia, but they haven't tried it yet. Just over one in 10 (11%) say they have tried stevia and plan to continue purchasing it.