Sweetener brand Stevia in the Raw and soft drink Zevia, two of a host of businesses showing stevia-based lines at the Anuga food and drink fair in Cologne this week, said the UK would be a key market for their products.
Both are waiting for the European parliament to give final approval for the plant extract to be sold in the EU, a decision expected by early December. Stevia has been on sale in the US since 2008 and because it is entirely natural and contains virtually no calories has been touted as the 'holy grail' of sweeteners.
"Stevia is not a fad it will carve out more than a niche for itself in the UK," said Gerry Mullally, senior VP of business development at Cumberland Packing Corp, which produces Stevia in the Raw and also owns US sweetener brand Sweet'n Low. The company hopes to have two products a powdered sweetener and tablets sold in a dispenser on UK shelves by January.
It will face stiff competition from Truvia, produced by Cargill, and Purevia, owned by Merisant. Both have announced their intention to enter the UK, while major supermarkets are understood to be developing own-label products.
Also set to hit shelves early next year is soft drink brand Zevia's range of 12 stevia-based soft drinks under the strapline 'What soda should always have been'. It launched in the US three years ago and has recently rolled out in Canada.
"We will move into the UK as soon as we can," said Jonathan Prince, VP of international sales for Zevia.