A sweet new sugar option

Truvia is a sweetener produced from the stevia plant.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: There's an addition to the already long list of artificial sweeteners today. Coke and Cargill want to convince you to abandon Sweet'n Low or Splenda or Nutrasweet or whichever one you use.

Marketplace's Alisa Roth explains why the roots of a weed called stevia might be a big deal.


Alisa Roth: The soft drink business has been a little flat lately. Some people would rather have sports drinks or vitamin waters. Others have been scared off by the bad rap: Sodas cause obesity and other health problems.

Tom Pirko: The consumer's trying to figure out whether or not they're part of a healthy lifestyle.

Tom Pirko's a beverage industry analyst. He says the business has been searching for what he calls a Holy Grail: a sweetener that's cheap, tastes good and won't make you fat.

Everybody's wondering if stevia could be it. The stuff comes -- I'm not making this up -- from the leaves of a Latin American bush. Its better-known competitors like aspartame were all developed in test tubes.

John Sicher edits the trade publication "Beverage Digest." He thinks stevia's natural roots could convince some people to start drinking soda again.

John Sicher: With Americans having a growing interest in natural products, combining that with an interest in low-calorie products, beverage executives think that a natural no-calorie sweetener would be something which would enable them to add products to their portfolio.

Those familiar pink, blue and brown sweeteners may soon be in for some competition. Green packets of stevia under the trademark Truvia go on sale in New York today and across the country by fall.

But those hoping to mix health food with junk food in the form of stevia-sweetened sodas will have to wait a little longer -- Coke isn't saying when it will have them on the market.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...