What could be sweeter than sugar?

October 20, 2014

A Yiddish proverb says, “Don’t be too sweet lest you be eaten up.” If only.

The top sugar brand in the United States, Domino Sugar, has announced it is joining the diet bandwagon by launching a no-calorie, “natural” sweetener line extracted from Paraguay’s  stevia plant.

Last month, the three biggest soda companies in the U.S., Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, proposed an initiative to reduce the number of calories consumed in sweetened drinks by 20 percent by 2025.

What’s happening here? A crisis of conscience among Big Food execs? A case of companies biting the hands that gorged them with profits? Isn’t it our God-given right to slowly consume ourselves to death while freaking out about Ebola?

Not surprisingly, the answer makes more business sense than that. As this Reuters graphic shows, “natural” sweetener stevia is growing in popularity and expected to enjoy a further bump in market share in coming years. At the same time, Americans’ taste for caloric sweeteners has fallen off considerably since a peak in the late-1990s, apparently owing to more responsible decision making by consumers.

The science, of course, is still far from perfect.  But if researchers are still uncertain about just how healthy non-caloric sweeteners may be, the bottom line is far clearer. Domino President and CEO Brian O’Malley gives a pragmatic—if cynical—interpretation of the change in heart: “If you look down the sweeteners aisle at any supermarket, there are stevia products there. Whatever consumers are looking for, we want to provide.”

Still, only 1.5 percent of new food products launched in the first nine months of 2014 contained stevia.  As long as it’s so hard for chemists to re-create the taste of real sugar, change surely will flow like molasses.

 

 

 

 

2 comments

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They need to find one that doesn’t harm your teeth. Xylitol does that, but it upsets your digestive system. Other plant sweeteners do not. They need to develop those instead.

Posted by NewsLady | Report as abusive

All well and good but the question isn’t with the calories it’s why everything has to be so sweet? Moving from Europe to the US in the early 1980s I found sodas here to be far sweeter than I was used to – same global brands, far different taste. I’d like to see just less sugar or sweetener, i.e. make the products less sweet and more flavorful, more interesting. Regarding Stevia, I’ve tried it and found it causes me to experience irregular heartbeat. Friends also reported the irregular heartbeat but prefer to live with it instead of giving up Stevia – for which they gave up sugar.

Posted by jantsch | Report as abusive