With the growing health-conscious trend, both consumers and organizations are placing an increased emphasis on limiting the calorie content in a beverage. First it was using cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to replace sucrose, and now it’s using natural sweeteners to replace cane sugar and HFCS. Since stevia is the main natural sweetener used for beverages, BevWire is writing a short piece on the stevia natural sweetener.
First of all, what is stevia and why are we using it? Stevia is a plant-based sweetener and is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. Extracted from plant leaves, stevia in its original form is found in the western parts of North and South America. In addition to being sweeter, stevia also contains less calories (practically zero calories) making it a great alternative to replace cane sugar, HFCS, and sucrose. With product commercialization and increased approvals from countries, stevia is now widely used in many countries as natural sweeteners, food additives and dietary supplements. In North America, stevia has been approved for use by Canada (Health Canada) and the US (FDA) in consumer goods. Some notable names consumers may have heard are Truvia, PureVia, and SweetLeaf. Truvia is the stevia brand that Coca-Cola uses in vitaminwater 10. PureVia is the consumer brand of stevia found in Pepsi’s Aquafina Plus 10.
With all the health benefits related to stevia, why is it not being used by more companies and products? One reason is cost. It is not as widely cultivated as cane sugar or HFCS, and the product is still in the early acceptance stage, therefore making it more expensive to use compared to the other products. Also, despite the health-conscious trend, consumers are still slow to accept natural sweeteners in replacement of their current beverage options. The Sprite Green stevia-sweetened drink is a hit and miss depending on who you ask because the taste is different from what consumers are used to. BevWire’s readers also commented that vitaminwater zero tasted vastly different from vitaminwater10. Once consumers accept stevia as the healthy, low calorie sweetener for their beverages, the products manufactured with stevia will grow in number quickly.