December 2008 saw official approval by the FDA for Cargill’s Truvia, a stevia based sweetener. Experts had been predicting that the last month of the year would see FDA approval for the stevia based product, boosting the market for these herbal sweeteners significantly.
Zero calorie sweeteners are big business and a few of the earliest players have quickly garnered a corner of the market. These mainly tend to be Aspartame based sweeteners, like Sweet N low and NutraSweet which have been approved by the FDA for decades now. However, aspartame-based sweeteners have been linked to several health concerns, and consumers have been vary of mixing these into their coffee and tea.
Enter stevia – a substance found naturally in the stevia plant that is native to several parts of South America, including Peru. The natives of these lands have used stevia leaves as a natural sweetener for hundreds of years. It was only in the past few decades that the leaves of the plant that are up to 300 times sweeter than sugarcane, were brought to the attention of the western world.
Companies quickly began processing the leaves, and developed a zero calorie all natural sweetener for use by the consumer. For years now, stevia has been marketed as a dietary supplement in the US, but did not receive FDA approval to be used as a table top sweetener. In countries outside of the US however, stevia based sweetener s are freely available as sugar substitutes.
The green light given to Cargill’s Truvia by the FDA gives a major boost to the company’s ambitions in the zero-calorie sweetener market. The company received an official FDA communiqué that the agency found no objection to research that proved that Rebaudioside A which is a scientific name for the stevia extract, is recognized as safe.
Needless to say Cargill is extremely excited about the go ahead given to Truvia by the FDA. The company has lost no time promoting the sweetener assuring customers that only the highest quality of stevia leaves go into the making of Truvia. The stevia plant has more than 200 varieties, and the quality of the product can depend on the extracted sweet compound that the leaves yield.
Not to be left behind, PepsiCo has produced its own brand of stevia based sweeteners called PureVia. The company has collaborated with Merisant to introduce PureVia which was also approved by the FDA in December.
Now with FDA approved stevia available in stores, consumers will be able to substitute a stevia-based sweetener like Truvia for table sugar in desserts and drinks. So far, there is little mention of any health risks connected to stevia, but the general feeling is that anything that comes from a plant must be better than artificial sugar substitutes that contain chemicals, which is bound to be sweet news for companies marketing these products.