Stevia is a non-caloric plant-based sweetener. It is made from a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, which is grown for its sweet leaves. Stevia is also commonly known as sugar leaf or sweet leaf. The use of whole-leaf stevia or crude extracts of stevia is not permitted by the FDA, as these substances have not been approved for use as a food additive. The FDA has not approved stevia, due to certain health concerns related to it such as control of blood sugar and side effects on the renal, reproductive, and cardiovascular system. In the market, there exist many sugar substitutes. Some of the sugar substitutes that have been approved by the FDA include aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame K, and monk fruit. Even though stevia is not approved by the FDA, it has been widely used as a sugar substitute around the world for decades.
The global stevia market according to geography is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Rest of the World. North America and Asia Pacific dominate the global market for stevia. Many of the top companies in the global stevia market are from the U.S. and Asia Pacific. Some of the major companies operating in this market include: The Coca-Cola Company (U.S.), PepsiCo (U.S.), PureCircle (Malaysia), and Cargill, Inc. (U.S.). Let us look at the market trends that are contributing to the growth of the Asia Pacific and North America stevia markets.
Increasing Diabetic and Obese Population
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that around 347 million people had diabetes globally. This condition is gaining prevalence more in developing countries. China and India have the largest number of diabetic patients. On the other hand, among developed countries, the U.S. has the largest number of diabetics. Stevia, being a sugar substitute, is used widely by diabetics in these regions. In addition, the increasing awareness regarding diabetes and obesity in the U.S. and Asia Pacific consumers is driving the preference for natural sweeteners like stevia. The WHO anticipates that stevia will replace 20-30% of all dietary sweeteners in future.
Changing Lifestyle and Accelerating Urbanization
In Asia Pacific, a large number of people are migrating to urban dwellings, especially in China. The shifting lifestyle patterns in Asia Pacific and increasing sedentary lifestyle observed in the U.S. together have made low-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame and stevia an integral part of a healthy daily diet. Stevia leaves are 20-30 times sweeter than sugar and contain much fewer calories compared to sugar. This has led to increased demand for stevia in the Asia-Pacific and North America markets.
Growing Health and Nutritional Concerns
The U.S. is the largest consumer of sugar in the world. This has contributed substantially to a dramatic growth in its diabetic population. Hence, growing nutritional concerns in the U.S. have led consumers to switch to natural and less harmful sweeteners like stevia. In Asia Pacific, stevia has been used as a sweetener in many regions for decades, which makes it the largest market for stevia, followed by North America. With rising disposable incomes and growing consumer awareness about health concerns, the popularity of stevia has accelerated in Asia Pacific.
Growing awareness among consumers is one of the primary trends driving the global stevia market. The use of stevia has gained momentum in the beverage segment. It is used in several beverage products such as sports drinks, soft drinks, and flavored and functional water. On May 2010, 16 of the world’s largest food and beverage firms such as Kraft Foods and The Coca-Cola Company participated in a calorie reduction pledge. According to the University of North Carolina, 2012 data shows that these firms sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories, which boosted the demand for stevia further.
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