Sales of stevia-based sweeteners have fallen short of the hype since the EU approved the natural, calorie-free ingredient in November.

Pure Via only notched up sales of £40,000 in its first eight weeks, despite its distribution covering 80% of UK food consumption [SymphonyIRI]. Tate & Lyle Sugars’ stevia brand Light at Heart managed sales of £77,000 over the same period.

The performance falls well short of the success seen in France, where stevia-based sweeteners have generated €16m in sales and established a 30% market share since the French government approved stevia ahead of the EU in late 2009.

“The first figures for the UK are not as encouraging as they were in France,” said Mintel analyst Yannick Troalen. The performance could be down to the price premium over artificial sweeteners - about £2 for a 75g jar - and less pronounced concerns about aspartame than in France, where a public backlash led Carrefour and Casino to ditch it from their soft drinks, Troalen suggested.

UK stevia launches since EU approval so far include five tabletop sweetener products. By contrast, there have been 41 products launched in the rest of the EU, of which more than half were in other product categories [Mintel].

Merisant, which makes Pure Via, insisted the outlook was encouraging. “We are confident we will replicate the success we have experienced in other markets,” said senior vice president Hugues Pitre.