Stevia: Natural or Artificial?

We recently posted a news item here at about a new Stevia-based sweetener being used in beverages: Coke, Pepsi introduce drinks with Stevia-based artificial sweetener.

Stevia rebaudiana flowers
Stevia rebaudiana flowers
(Source: Ethel Aardvark)

If you browse through the comments section on that piece, then it’s obvious that there was discussion regarding whether these new sweeteners (Truvia and PureVia) are considered natural. I titled the news item using the phrase “artificial” which seemed to set some feedback in motion arguing against that notion.

Truvia & PureVia

Here are some excerpts from BevReview readers:

Stevia is a better sweetener than any other because its just an herb (although there may be something in the processing of it – turning it from brown to white – that will make it just as bad as the fake sugars).

- Charlene

I think the title of this piece may be a little misleading since as far as I am aware these new stevia based sweeteners being used by Coke and Pepsi (Truvia and PureVia) are natural sweeteners as opposed to being new artificial sweeteners. The ‘natural’ factor is their whole differentiating proposition and why there seems to be such a buzz around them at present.

- Sally

Why are you describing Reb A as artificial? It is a naturally extracted molecule (glycoside) from the Stevia plant in the same way that gingko extract is extracted from the gingko leaf. This is the whole point. The color change is because the extract is a clear liquid (like water) and then powderized naturally.

There will detailed coverage available within in the next few weeks of the extraction process and its social benefits. Coke and Pepsi wouldn’t have invested major resources in another artificial sweetener just because it started life as a plant. Sucralose starts life as pharma grade sugar (which is itself and extract) . The difference is that Reb A remains clean, natural and safe.

- Angusf27

Now, I don’t claim to be the expert on such things, so I figured I’d open this up to folks who may know more than me. Reading what I’ve linked to, what other folks are saying, and what you’ve read, would you consider these new sweeteners to be ‘natural’ or ‘artificial’? Would you place it along side sugar, or would you group it with aspertame, Ace-K, and sucralose?

Is this another situation like the launch of the reformulated 7Up back in 2006 when they claimed that the drink was “Now 100% Natural” even though it used high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)? 7Up’s parent company was sued over the claim and eventually changed the branding to “100% natural flavors”.

Or are these Reb-A-based sweeteners actually the real deal? Maybe it just boils down to labeling and semantics regarding what is considered ‘natural’ or not.

I’d like to hear more from you, the BevReview readership. What are your thoughts on these new sweeteners? How about their potential for use in beverages, like Sprite Green and SoBe LifeWater? Are you looking forward to their introduction or is it a “ho hum” type of situation?

Comments are open. Share away!

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