Global launches of beverages sweetened using stevia leaves have increased by 11% during 2017 according to data by the Mintel Group.

The upsurge for drinks is accompanied by a 10% increase in the launches of food products sweetened with stevia in 2017.

The top categories within the food and drinks industries for products containing stevia are juice drinks, dairy, confectionary, carbonated soft drinks and snacks. Another important category is stevia-based products aimed at children aged between five and 12 for which the number of product launches increased by 16% in 2017.

Asia Pacific was the main region where food and drink products were sweetened with stevia accounting for 40% of the global total stevia products. Europe had the second largest number of stevia sweetened products.

Companies which launched stevia-sweetened products in 2017 include Groupe Danone, Kraft Heinz, PepsiCo, Unilever and Coca-Cola. Examples of these brands’ products containing stevia are Coca-Cola Life, Sprite, Stoneyfield yoghurt and Pepsi True.

The Mintel data also shows that launches of beverage and food products containing stevia have increased steadily by 12% since 2012. In 2012, 16% of all food and drinks products made with diet sweeteners used stevia, compared with 28% in 2017.

Over the same period, the use of aspartame, another sweetener, declined from 36% to 25%.

Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant. Its active components are steviol glycosides, which have approximately 150 times the sweetness of sugar. Stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than sugar.

Aspartame is an artificial non-saccharide sweetener composed of amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and methanol. The safety of the sweetener has been widely debated and studied because of possible side effects on breast feeding mothers and it potentially causing cancer.

Sweeteners are popular with health-conscious consumers primarily because they contain very few calories and do not have an impact on blood glucose levels.