Global sales of stevia reached 3500 metric tons in 2010, a 27% increase from 2009, taking its overall market value to $285 million, according to a new study from U.K.-based food and drink consultancy Zenith International. Zenith also forecasts the global market for stevia will reach 11,000 metric 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 Anya Hembrough, senior market analyst with Zenith. “After persistent efforts by key producers, legislators worldwide are finally giving the green light to this new zero-calorie sweetener.”
The turning point in stevia’s fortunes came in 2008, Zenith reports, when steviol glycosides, the sweetening components of the leaf, were deemed to be safe and Rebaudioside A, one particular steviol glycoside, was granted GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status in the U.S. Since then, approval by legislators around the world has opened the door to new formulations and reformulations of foods and beverages with zero or reduced calorie content.