Analysis - Stevia storms ahead as PureCircle is primed
The Coca-Cola Co has thrown its weight behind Coke Life, with roll-outs in the US, South America and Europe. Meanwhile, its competitor PepsiCo is adopting a softer launch approach with True.But, what of one of the principal producers of stevia, PureCircle?
The Malaysia-headquarted company, which was established in 2001, is a supplier to both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. PureCircle has invested around US$300m in its technologies and is understandably bouyant about its future prospects.In a conference call with analysts Bernstein Research this week, Pure Circle CEO Magomet Malsagov said that stevia has the potential to penetrate 20% to 25% of the overall sweetener market. This would equate to the stevia market being worth $15bn to $20bn within the next 20 years.
Part of stevia's growth has come about due to concerns over obesity, linked to sugar. As Malsagov pointed out: "The global obesity problem ... is not specific to the US or Europe. India, China, and Brazil are catching up very quickly. The WHO predicts there will be about 2.3bn overweight adults in the world by 2015, and 700m of them will be obese. That's a big number."He also argued, predictably, that for CSD producers there are "cost-saving benefits" to using the sweetener. "Stevia, because it's so much sweeter than sugar, requires three times less resources than sugar or high fructose corn syrup to deliver the same sweetness," he said. "There are tangible cost-saving incentives for companies to replace sugar or high-fructose corn syrup with stevia."
Stevia has also faced question marks over the taste it brings to products. Malsagov suggests that, with Coca-Cola rolling out Life in a number of markets, it proves the product is performing well. A previous study from Bernstein, however, revealed that Life's sales in the US may not be setting the world on fire.Malsagov responded to a question about taste with these remarks: "If you replace the sugar in cola drinks with stevia, you have to balance the impact of flavour with sweetness. I would say sweetness is more challenging than taste because taste is subjective."
"I think you all need to try the products that have been launched, such as the Coke Lifes of this world, to see how they taste. We think, from a completely biased opinion, that they taste great, and the continued roll-out confirms that companies are happy with the taste as well."However, Malsagov admitted: “It took them a bit of time to learn how to use it, particularly on the flavour side."
There has also been an issue in getting regulators to approve the use of stevia. But, as Malsagov flagged, India is the only "large" global market left to give the final green light, although it is nearly sealed."I'm happy to say that the approval of stevia in India has already gone through, but just needs to be published, which we expect to take place within the next few months.
"With that, basically every corner of the world can consume products containing stevia."
A stevia-saturated world awaits.
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