Industry & Business

Mid-Calorie Receives Top Marks in CSD Market

Mid-Calorie Receives Top Marks in CSD Market

Mid-Calorie Receives Top Marks in CSD Market
October 13
12:55 2014

The global market for carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) is shifting as it responds to changing consumer lifestyles. Now more than ever before, consumers are keenly interested in health and wellness, while at the same time seeking choice, variety and new flavour experiences. Part of this general trend is a strong consumer desire for naturally-sourced sweeteners with few or no calories.

The mid-calorie beverage offers CSD formulators a unique product with marketing opportunities perfectly poised to capitalize on the health and wellness trend. As part of their quest for a healthy lifestyle, consumers are examining overall dietary choices and, among other changes, trying to reduce caloric intake. This positive calorie management strategy encourages them to explore mid-range caloric beverages, an option that fits neatly between diet and traditional or full-sugar carbonated drinks. Mid-calorie creates a unique incremental beverage category that resonates with consumers of all types.

“All of our research shows an increasing fraction of consumers aren’t necessarily thinking “diet” but instead are embracing a platform of a more balanced lifestyle, among both older and younger adults,” says Olivier Kutz, marketing manager EMEA for leading stevia producer PureCircle. “They are looking to everyday healthier choices in the ‘better-for-you’ category with an emphasis on the mid-calorie range—products already demonstrating success in several markets.”

Mintel data analysis agrees that a focus on healthier beverages can lead to success. A recent report for the European market stated “reformulating beverages to make them healthier and borrowing cues from other categories may help CSD brands keep consumers loyal to their products.”

And formulators appear to be heeding this call to action. Innovation in the European CSD market grew by 17 percent in the last 12 months to June 2014.

Keys to Success

With a reduced-calorie or mid-calorie CSD, the key for formulators is to create great-tasting, thirst-quenching beverages that consumers can feel good about drinking. Stevia extract, derived from the leaves of the stevia plant, native to South America, is a naturally-sourced, zero calorie sweetener that can help formulators create this style of beverage.

PureCirclePlantingSeedlingsPureCircle’s Stevia 3.0™ platform offers a suite of different stevia ingredients that can be combined and blended according to a developer’s needs. Using this platform and combining stevia with higher calorie sweeteners like sugar creates mid-calorie beverages with a well-rounded sweetness and full-flavoured taste. Nicky Plumpton, senior technical manager, EMEA for PureCircle offers this advice to formulators, “Stevia does not have a linear dose response curve like sugar. Start with low amounts and gradually build up the amount of stevia to control attributes, such as sweetness linger, help control cost in use and optimise the sweetness profile.”

A key regulatory restriction affects CSD formulation in Europe. Commission regulation (EU) No. 1131/2011 states to use stevia in flavoured drinks the product must be energy reduced (30% calorie reduced) or with no added sugar. The second part of this regulation dictates the amount of stevia formulators can use, limiting it to 80 ppm steviol equivalent. Within those regulations stevia helps create great- tasting, mid-calorie beverages with a 30 to 50 percent reduction in sugar, across the spectrum of flavours from colas to lemon-lime and orange.

Front of Pack Prominence

Mintel research shows that when formulators and marketers use stevia to reduce calories, it receives a prominent front-of-pack mention, which is not the norm for any other type of sweetener inclusion. One possible conclusion — stevia’s natural origin from a plant-based source adds value in the consumers’ eyes and knowledgeable marketers are eager to promote it.

This strategy is attracting a fair amount of marketing spend from both large and small manufacturers alike. In several markets around the globe, a mid-calorie beverage strategy sweetened with stevia has provided consumers with a refreshing change that in turn, sparked impressive sales increases.

Finding the Right Tools

Stevia 3.0™ provides CSD formulators with the tools to create a mid-range caloric beverage, for a reformulation, line extension or new product introduction to capture market share in a competitive beverage landscape.

However, a different set of challenges exists when reformulating, compared to new launches or range extensions. With reformulations, consumers are familiar with a product’s taste and expect it to remain the same. This sets a benchmark for product developers to match. A balance of caloric sweeteners paired with carefully selected and tailored ingredients from the Stevia 3.0™ platform can help.

Stevia offers the opportunity to formulate low/no/and reduced calorie versions of existing products and to create new product ranges with either traditional, limited-time or unique flavour options. While calories shrink, sales can expand by offering healthier beverage choices to slake the thirst of an audience eager for great-tasting innovation.

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