Despite a myriad of alternative sweeteners, reducing sugar in foods and beverages is a big challenge for product developers. In addition to a number of technical issues involved, consumers seek ingredients perceived as “clean” or “natural.” When stevia entered the panoply of sugar replacers, it held great promise and, indeed, swiftly led the pack.
Stevia’s attraction was that it is a naturally sourced sweetener, derived from the leaves of a South American shrub with an ancient traditional history. The plant contains compounds called glycosides, which are molecules of simple sugars connected to another molecule. These glycosides are called “steviosides,” the main stevioside being rebaudioside-A.