by Marion Nestle
May 30 2012

Stevia and other “natural” sweeteners: are they? did a special edition “Where next for natural sweeteners?”  “Special editions are collections of previously published articles on topics of interest to this newsletter’s food industry readers.

Why do this?  The holy grail of food technology is to find a no-calorie sweetener that tastes as good as sugar, has no bitter aftertaste, and can be marketed as “natural” because it’s extracted from plants. Examples: Stevia extracted from leaves Monk fruit sweetener.

As with high fructose corn syrup, not everyone considers these sweeteners to be natural since they have to go through chemical processing steps.

Stevia is extracted from leaves with ethanol.  Whether this process can be considered natural is currently under debate in Europe.  Some European regulators prefer “extracted from a plant source.”

Here are some of the articles.  For the complete collection, click here.

Monk fruit sweetener firm: ‘We hear daily that people are looking for alternatives to stevia’

It might not have garnered as much publicity as stevia, but monk fruit (luo han guo) “has found a niche within the all-natural market but will hit mass market sooner than stevia in this space”, according to one leading supplier… Read

Tate & Lyle: Monk fruit sweetener attracting most interest in dairy and beverages

Dairy and beverages are proving the most popular application areas for monk fruit sweetener Purefruit, says Tate & Lyle… Read

Different processes, lower cost, better taste: Is stevia still on track for mainstream success?Taste issues and high cost repeatedly have been raised as possible obstacles to widespread acceptance of stevia-derived sweeteners, but one of the many new suppliers entering the market claims that these are no longer the hurdles they once were… Read

Steviol glycosides are not ‘all-natural’, says new class action lawsuitA class action lawsuit filed in California this week argues that steviol glycosides should not be considered natural, owing to the “chemical processing” sometimes used to extract them from the stevia leaf… Read

Stevia buyers beware: There are some ‘awful’ extracts out there…

While traders “jumping in and out of the stevia marketplace” are disrupting prices and standards by peddling some “awful” extracts, high-quality stevia suppliers in it for the long-haul will ultimately prosper, according to one leading player… Read

Stevia in snacks and baked goods – stealth, competition, and potential

While stevia is beginning to take off in a number of baked goods and snack categories in the US, Asian and South American markets, some other emerging ‘natural’ sweeteners look ready to take it on in the segment, claims Datamonitor… Read

Naturally-positioned sweeteners to lead market growth: Report

The US alternative sweeteners market will grow by 3.3% a year to reach about $1.4bn in 2015 – and naturally positioned sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar will lead the way, claims a new report from market research organization Freedonia… Read

  • Anthro

    Even if you take the sugar out of a chocolate chip cookie, it would still have a lot of calories, but how about not sweetening everything you eat or drink to begin with–or not thinking you “deserve” a constant series of “treats” to get through the day?

    Note: “You” being the collective population, not the general readers of this blog. Having said that, I can assure you that when I am diagnosed with something terminal, I will go out with an overdose of chocolate–sweetened, of course.

  • Michael

    What’s wrong with using ethanol–a ubiquitous and perfectly safe solvent– to extract stevia?

    Lime is used to refine common cane sugar, and cheese is “processed with chemicals” too, you know.

  • But stevia is a leaf and doesn’t have to be extracted by anything. Take a pinch of the dried leaf and crumble it into whatever you’re trying to sweeten. Granted, what’s on store shelves right now is just the processed product, but herb vendors still have the leaf.

  • max

    Doesn’t make any sense, sugar is also not natural if one follows this logic.

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  • thanks for a great post. I love reading about stevia and in Europe its very popular now.

  • C

    Do we eat straight sugarcane? Usually, no. Do you consume naturally flavored products? Have you ever added some vanilla extract to a cake? Chances are, you encounter something that went through a natural extraction process every single day…
    The issue with using stevia leaves is that stevia comes with lots of baggage- i.e., off flavors (licorice notes, bitter, etc).
    The point of refinement is to make the ingredient easier to use, transport, store, and improve the flavor.
    Do you drink juice? We all know we should eat the whole fruit. However, there are times when drinking a glass of juice may better meet your needs. It is the same way with natural sweetener refinement. The key is understanding the type of refinement and if that is indeed natural. However, going “OMG, they used chemicals, meaning ethanol, on my natural sweetener?” is ALARMIST and naive.

  • “Stevia is extracted from leaves with ethanol.”

    That’s not always the case, Marion. There are some forms of stevia powder where the stevia extract is extracted using only water. Among those is Stevita Supreme. It is my favourite.

  • Sherry333

    I just bought ground whole-leaf stevia. No chemical processing – just dried herb.

  • Sherry333

    So is marajuana. 40% of sweetener used in Japan is Stevia.