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Stevia braces for a sweeter year in U.S., Europe

Two packages of products derived from the stevia plant in Paraguay. The sweetener is poised to make big gains in U.S. and European markets this year.

Stacey Vanek Smith: The low-calorie, natural sweetener Stevia is set to show up in more drinks and desserts this year. Its market share grew exponentially in the U.S. last year, and now Europe is fixing to get a taste in 2012. The European Union greenlit use of the sweetener last month.

Marketplace's Eve Troeh has more.


Eve Troeh: Stevia is the latest innovation in the food industry's long quest for an alternative to sugar. Everyone loves the taste of sugar -- but not the results.

Ad: I loved your sweetness, but you're not sweet you made my butt fat.

Troeh: That's an ad for Truvia, the most popular Stevia sweetener brand. And, customers have bought in. Truvia has overtaken Sweet-n-Low in the tabletop non-sugar sweetener wars. Its green packets are now number two -- still far behind the yellow Splendas.

But David Jago at Mintel Research says all those yellow, pink and blue packets are going to lose more ground, because they're made from chemicals.

David Jago: There has been a lot of negative press around them, rightly or wrongly, which has meant that a lot of consumers have been rather turned away from them.

Stevia sweetener comes from a little green bush from South America. It can be called "natural."

Jago: And that's perhaps the most important driver behind its growth.

Jago says Europe is expected to love Stevia as much as the U.S. Companies from Coke to yogurt giant Danone are positioning themselves to take advantage of the EU's new approval for the sweetener. But, it costs up to seven times more than the old chemical sweeteners, so new products will likely mix Stevia with real sugar.

Jago: So it's not about zero-calorie positioning, it's more about a reduced sugar positioning, which seems to be a message that resonates pretty well with consumers.

It tastes better, too -- as a spoonful of sugar helps the Stevia aftertaste go down.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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