The third edition of Stevia Global Summit India was held at the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), New Delhi, on April 8, 2012. The event, organised by the India Stevia Association (ISA), brought the natural sweetener closer to farmers, the food and beverage industry, health-conscious people and diabetics.
Sourabh Agarwal, chairman and managing director, Stevia Biotech Pvt Ltd and founder, ISA, said that the event would focus on the use of stevia in food and beverages and on creating more awareness and providing a knowledge-sharing platform.
Apart from the ISA and the organisation Agarwal heads, the meet was attended by senior personnel from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI); the ministry of health, Government of India; the Indian Drug Department; the Indian Food Processing Association; the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI); the Paraguay Embassy; the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); Stevia Global Forum; Hamdard University; the National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB); The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI); the horticultural board; a group of leading farmers; food technologists; researchers, stakeholders in the stevia farming and processing industry, foreign dignitaries and several food and beverage companies (including PepsiCo and Coca-Cola), among others.
It was a comprehensive conference on the stevia value chain. The attendees not only got important insights on stevia applications in the food and beverage sector, but also on key issues such as market trends; regulatory issues; product launches; investments and new developments in the cultivation, processing and formulation of the natural sweetener. Latest updates on the global stevia sector were also provided at the event.
All the dignitaries present at the event were keen to know when stevia would be recognised as a food ingredient in India, because it has already been approved by international bodies like the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) and the European Union (EU). It was also one of the recommendations made at the Codex meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, last year.
Incidentally, FSSAI has now given it their nod, so now a number of products will be available in the Indian market with stevia as an ingredient. Indian farmers can also grow it as a cash crop, and stevia processing units can be set up across India. The sector will also attract foreign investment and generate employment.
Speakers at the conference included Bala Prasad, joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare, government of India with additional charge of NMPB; Arun Chauhan, president, Amity University; Prof Dr S S Agarwal, ex-professor of pharmacology and principal, Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Science and Research (DIPSAR); Genaro Vicente Pappalardo, ambassador of Paraguay; Nguyen Thi Huong from Vietnam; Ravi Chaudhry, chairman, CeNext; Hugo from Paraguay; Dr Suman Kirti, president, Delhi Diabetic Association; Gaba (All India Food Processing Association); Dr Vijay Kaul from IHBT, CSIR; Sanjay Naphade, vice-president, innovations, PepsiCo India Holdings; Dr Vibha Dhawan, executive director, planning and co-ordination, The Energy and Resources Institute and former vice-chancellor, TERI University, and many learned experts in their field of work who expressed their views on different aspects of stevia.
The global sweetener market is worth over $60 billion, whereas the sugar market is worth over $50 billion, and high-intensity sweeteners are worth $3 billion-plus. Multinational food and beverage giants like Pepsi and Coke have announced to reduce calories from about 20 per cent of their current product ranges. Stevia has a major role to play in that. Hundreds of products sweetened with stevia have been launched all over the world in the last few years. In the last four years, more than 600 products were launched, and now with the EU's approval, there will be a flood of products containing stevia. Stevia has garnered attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives. It has a negligible effect on blood glucose.