Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)
is a species native to Brazil and Paraguay that have been introduced to Japan and Europe. Increasing interest in this plant results from high content of sweet compounds in the leaves, i.e. steviol glicosides, which are 100 – 400 times more sweet than sugar. They cannot be metabolized by human organism, so do not deliver “sweet calories”. Extracts from stevia have been initially used by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo as additives to Sprite Green and SoBe LifeWater drinks.
In Europe stevia has been accepted as food additive at the end of 2011, so within a short time many candies, chocolates and cakes containg stevia have appeared on the market. In Poland the first stevia-containing product is yogurth Activia Light produced by Danone that contains 35% less sugar than traditional yogurth. It was introduced to the market in January 2013.
Stevia grows well on light, well-drained soils. It is not resistant to frost, so in climatic conditions of Europe is cultivated as annual plant.