Stevia, How Sweet it is! But What a Horrible Name.

Our Director of Consulting Neal Cavalier-Smith recently presented “The Rules of Stevia Marketing: Getting the Right Communication for the Right Consumer” at the Stevia 2011 Conference.

View a free and informative ten minute summary here:
Rules of Stevia Marketing by Neal Cavalier-Smith
Read Neal’s observations from the conference and some words of advice…

Wim Debeuckelaere, from the European Commission, kicked off the conference with EU paperwork clutched in his hands and announced Stevia was on track to be approved and available Europe wide, at long last, by the end of the year. It was a great way to start the day!

The conference exposed two main themes; Taste barriers in the formulation of products with Stevia and Consumer acceptance of the ingredient in Europe. Especially if, as seems probable, ingredient lists have to say something like “steviol glycosides” – far from the desired natural positioning.

There was great debate from participants on using ingredient combinations to address taste challenges. While this appears to be an easy solution for manufacturers, adding unknown ingredients to already bloated lists may not bode well with the consumer, especially in the natural category. From a consumer perspective, I think the industry needs to put more focus on removing the bitter taste in the refining than to adding or combining ingredients in products to mask it.

David Jago from Mintel gave an excellent presentation on “Understanding the Position of Stevia in European and Global Markets”. He shared several success cases, largely from the US, where consumers are less sensitive to food additives.

As Stevia is rolled out across Europe, it is important we take note of the ‘rules’ of the category and the stakeholder-segment of health that we are launching into (see presentation).

I see the future for Stevia in mass market is as an enabler not a hero. It has no express health benefit: it just makes food taste the way we believe it should taste… minus some calories. Consumers in mass market don’t necessarily need to know about ‘Stevia the Ingredient’ – it is a nice alternative to ‘artificial’ sweetners but not the primary driver for purchase.

Where Stevia could become the hero is where it is incorporated into a product from a ‘brand with ‘values’ or ‘principles’ (e.g. Dorset Cereals or Innocent Smoothies) or as in the case of France where a scare about other intense sweeteners, has pushed Stevia front-of pack.

I have included in this blog my presentation from the conference, which outlines the ‘Rules of Stevia Marketing’. There is great potential for Stevia in our markets… Let’s besure we get the right communication to the right consumer and don’t waste the opportunity.