Germany-based sugar producer Nordzucker and Malaysian stevia supplier PureCircle have formed a new, equally-owned joint venture, called NP Sweet, to sell stevia in Northern and Eastern Europe as soon as regulatory approval for the ingredient is confirmed in the European Union.
Form its headquarters in Denmark, NP Sweet will develop and market ‘steviasucrose’ sweeteners – stevia products that combine sugar and stevia – to meet what it says is the “fast growing requirement for reduced calorie naturally sweet applications”.
Nordzucker and PureCircle first announced their intention to set up the joint venture last September, after the European Food Safety Authority issued an opinion declaring stevia to be safe. Final regulatory approval from the European Commission is expected later this year. At this point it will become legal to market stevia as an ingredient in food and beverage products within the European Union for the first time.
NP Sweet general manager Lars Bo Jørgensen said: “We believe that our steviasucrose concepts offer food and beverage producers highly efficient solutions, where sweetening with excellent taste is combined with facilitated production opportunities.”
Meanwhile, a new report by UK-based consultancy Zenith International says that stevia has enjoyed a “meteoric rise in popularity” in the years since it was approved for use as a sweetener in the U.S. in 2008.
According to the 2011 Zenith Report on Stevia, global volumes rose 27 percent year-on-year in 2010 to 3,500 tons, taking stevia’s overall market value to $285 million worldwide.
Asia-Pacific is currently the world’s largest consumer of stevia, accounting for 35.7 percent of volume sales last year. North America is second at 30 percent, and South America third with 24.3 percent.
Although stevia has not been confirmed as approved for use yet in the EU, this region still represented 8.6 percent of volumes globally. Sales are currently concentrated in France, where stevia has been approved nationally; in Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU and therefore not subject to its laws; and in Germany and Sweden, which are EU members but allow stevia to be used as a sweetener in dietary supplements.
Zenith forecasts that the global market for stevia will reach 11,000 tons by 2014, equivalent to $825 million by value.
“As rising levels of obesity and diabetes continue to dominate headlines, there has never been so much emphasis on reducing our caloric intake as well as consuming healthier foods and beverages,” said Zenith senior market analyst Anya Hembrough. “After persistent efforts by key producers, legislators worldwide are finally giving the green light to this new zero-calorie sweetener.”