Global launches of baked goods made with stevia increased 15% in the second quarter of 2017 compared to 2016, according to new research.

A study by Mintel showed the use of stevia in bakery was growing ahead of food and drink in general, which saw a 13% increase over the period. Baked goods accounted for 7% of global launches containing stevia in the second quarter of this year.

Stevia is a sweetener extracted from the leaves of the plant species stevia rebaudiana. However, under EU food additives legislation, the use of steviol glycosides (E 960) in breads, cakes, biscuits or any baked goods sold to consumers is generally not permitted.

PureCircle, a global supplier of the sweetener, said the global increase in the use of stevia was due to consumer health concerns.

“With consumers increasingly following a health and wellness agenda, driven by growing global concerns about obesity and diabetes, as well as government involvement and levies on sugar, producers are working hard to reduce sugar content in their baked goods,” said Faith Son, PureCircle head of marketing and innovation.

“This, combined with our dedication to developing zero-calorie sweeteners tailored to bakers’ requirements, has meant that PureCircle continues to see demand for natural-origin, zero-calorie stevia sweetener continue to grow.”