A new calorie-free sugar substitute from the leaf of the stevia plant arrives in the UK

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Stevia-based sweeteners are beginning to enter the UK market following approval for use in the European Union in late 2011. Intensely sweet compounds, called steviol glycosides, are purified from the leaves of the stevia plant to result in a sweetener of natural origin that is about 200 times as sweet as sucrose. The scientific community has been aware of stevia for more than 100 years, yet the case for safety was not made until after reliable purity specifications were established and research results were available that closed safety gaps to the satisfaction of regulators. In food and beverage formulations, steviol glycosides exhibit characteristic behaviours and successful formulation is dependent upon understanding and managing these attributes. Steviol glycosides are particularly well suited for a variety of beverage and dairy applications, confectionery and several other foods. This is in part caused by steviol glycosides' high degree of stability in food processing. Stevia-based sweeteners offer exciting potential for use as an innovative solution for calorie and sugar reduction.

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