“The demand for stevia is exploding,” declared Miguel Arrillaga, owner of the Málaga-based company De Pr1mera, which has over two million stevia plants in various parts of southern Spain and takes in over US $26,000 monthly through the sale of the dried leaves of the plant, powder form, capsules and jams, and stevia extract in liquid. Stevia is also grown in Colombia, Chile and Paraguay.
Spain has seen the potential and plantations are beginning to be set up around the country. This is a unique industry that is actually on the up in the economically distressed country.
Frequently used as a sweetener in food and beverage products throughout Americas and Asia, steviol glycosides are sweetening compounds extracted from the leaves of Stevia. They are considered as natural and free of calories and were approved in November 2011 for use in foods sold in the European Union. However, in Japan stevia has been widely used for decades as a sweetener.
In expectancy of the EU approval major supplies were already poised to start supplying Stevia sweeter across Europe.
France is currently Stevia’s biggest market in Europe. According to Reuters.com, Stevia’s market share among high-intensive sweeteners is still less than 1 percent in the country but growth rates are impressive. Volumes jumped over 50 percent in France last year, and are expected to more than double in 2012 and quadruple by 2014.
“This is a major step forward for consumer choice in Europe,” Carl Horn, president of the International Stevia Council explained to Nutritional Outlook. “…These two characteristics are key attributes for consumers searching for ‘better for me’ products in their efforts to lead healthier life styles and manage weight. In the coming weeks and months, consumers will begin to see new products sweetened with stevia appearing on the shelves in European supermarkets. This will include a wide range of goods, including yoghurts, cereals, beverages, soft drinks, confectionary, chocolate, and table top sweeteners.”
This natural sweeter could present a unique opportunity to a depressed Spanish economy that is in need of new ideas and markets.