Bringing taste balance to stevia’s natural sweetness

Helping our customers to develop healthier alternatives that surprise and delight consumers, offers huge opportunities for us in the area of health and wellness. A perfect example of how we’re creating sweetness alternatives can be seen in Givaudan’s achievements with sugar substitute stevia.


‘Stevia rebaudiana’, commonly known as ‘sweetleaf’ or simply stevia, is a shrub plant in the sunflower family. As a source for sweeteners and sugar substitutes it displays exceptional properties: stevial glycoside has up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, but extracts also have a bitter or liquorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.

As a sugar substitute its obvious benefit is that it delivers fewer calories than sugar. Initially, its use in food and beverages was driven by niche ‘health foods’. Today, however, stevia is fast outgrowing its niche brand status, making its way into more mainstream iconic soft drink brands.

“As part of our TasteSolutions® Sweetness programme, Givaudan helps customers make stevia-based formulations taste closer to sugar.” So says Janine, Global Product Manager Taste Sweet: “Stevia provides opportunities to improve the quality of sweetness, mouthfeel and aroma profile with a natural product. Customers are increasingly using stevia to expand their offer in mid-calorie products, reducing sugar levels in ‘regular’ drinks, to help consumers lower their caloric intake.”

Filling the gaps

Givaudan’s sensory research has identified key taste ‘gaps’ for stevia versus sugar: these include delayed sweetness onset and lingering sweetness. Off-notes are also a key issue, depending on the quality of stevia used. Bitterness, metallic aftertastes and a liquorice note are all associated with stevia. With regards to mouthfeel, sugar adds body to products, and without it products can taste ‘empty’. Finally, stevia can negatively alter the profile of characterising flavours, such as orange.

Janine comments on how TasteSolutions® Sweetness addresses these shortfalls: “Our tools enhance, improve and balance sweetness profiles. We take a holistic approach in understanding specific taste gaps. This helps customers to design a complete solution through rebalancing characterising flavours, masking off-notes, and base optimisation.”

Finally, Janine highlights the positive market response: “Givaudan has had excellent customer feedback on our stevia-based formulations, some commenting that our products are ‘the best they’ve seen’ in the industry. One customer has even increased their sugar reduction target thanks to our solutions.”

Developing versatile health and wellness ingredients such as stevia lets our customers diversify their products to include ever-healthier options.