The sweetness seems to be going out of the life of multimillion dollar artificial sweetener company, Augusta-based NutraSweet Company. Although the management won’t admit it, the company is gearing up to face stiff competition from new and unexpected quarters. In December, the FDA granted approval to two new zero calorie natural sweeteners – Truvia and PureVia marketed by Coca Cola and PepsiCo respectively. Both sweeteners are based on an extract of the stevia plant called Rebiana.
Both the brands are being promoted as one hundred percent natural, zero calorie sweeteners – the first such sweeteners to be approved by the FDA for table-top use. The “herbal” and “natural” tags are expected to generate huge interest in the two products, which the companies hope will translate into major sales.
At the NutraSweet Company, President Bill DeFer, feigns a lack of worry about the new kids on the block. According to DeFer, the stevia sweetener will not compete directly with NutraSweet’s sweetener. The demand for aspartame across the world is steady and rising, and these stevia based sweeteners wont impact this section of the market, he claims. NutraSweet is currently developing its own stevia-based all natural sweetener called NutraSweet Natural.
Stevia is a plant that is found in Peru and other Latin American countries. Extracts from the leaves of the plant have a very sweet taste. The products had till now been approved for use only as a dietary supplement and not as a table top sweetener, restricting their reach into the market. That changed in December when the FDA approved Cargill’s Truvia and PepsiCo‘s PureVia. Although NutraSweet may brush aside any talk of competition, the fact is that anything natural is bound to be more appealing to customers than a chemical based sweetener. Plus, Stevia is up to 200 times sweeter than sugar, which will only add to its appeal to a mass consumer market.
With the FDA approval of Truvia and PureVia, new products are being developed containing the all natural sweetener. Pepsi will introduce 3 new flavors of SoBe Lifewater, and Coke is planning Stevia-infused Sprite drinks.