According to market researchers, the global Stevia market could reach $490 million in 2016. That market is currently worth $304 million, with 4,100 tons sold in 2013—a 6.5 percent increase over 2012’s sales figures.

The sweetener is made by extracting flavor from the Stevia Rebaudioside plant, native to South America. Stevia extracts are up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but don’t affect blood glucose levels in the same way.

“As rising levels of obesity and diabetes continue to generate headlines, there has never been so much emphasis on reducing our caloric intake as well as consuming healthier foods and beverages,” says Zenith senior market intelligence consultant Davide Deiana. “After persistent efforts by key producers, which led to widespread legislative approval, Stevia is finally being recognized for its natural, zero-calorie, sweetening properties.”

The use of steviol glycosides as a food additive was approved in the European Union in 2011, and the US in 2008. In Japan, Stevia is widely used as a sweetener.