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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  1. I live with a guy who is a business major at the U of M Twin Cities. In one of his classes last semester, their final was to give a presentation on some new thing coming out soon. One group decided to do a presentation on Truvia. They basically said yes, it is all natural. There is nothing in the process that makes it artificial. It is also so sweet that one teaspoon could make a liter of Coke more sweet than with normal artificial sweeteners.

  2. I don't like the usual diet sweeteners and have been scared of what their long term effects might be…so when I try to cut back on sugar intake I use stevia…the packets I use are sweet but also slightly bitter, nothing really tastes like sugar unfortunately….but I do feel much more comfortable with this sweetener, so I'd definitely try these drinks. Have actually been frustrated that there wasn't something like this for sale. So if it doesn't taste bitter and doesn't leave me still thirsty or dry mouthed like I am with some other artificial sweeteners….I'll drink some. Now will I stock it? Depends how close to real sugar it tastes.

  3. I don't understand where people are getting this crazy idea lately that natural = better.

    Would you be happy with a drink full of lead, mercury, or cyanide? Those are pretty natural. Clearly Organic cigarettes will make me healthy since they are both natural and organic. The list of natural things that are harmless from plants and animals is nearly endless since many of their features are there to defend themselves.

    If herbs and spices can heal, they can almost certainly hurt. Their are very few things that are powerful enough to heal but not have side-effects.

    I'm sure the long term effects of the Sun are much more harmful then the exposure to artificial sweeteners and I think the Sun is very natural.

  4. I use stevia all the time to sweeten my coffee and tea. I love it. The best part is that it doesnt affect your blood sugar level and I think that a "natural" plant product better than the artificial sweenters. Stevia has been around a long time. I was introduced to it by my omish herbalist and have been hooked ever since. Im excited about all the talk about stevia sweetened sodas and other products!

    And yes, we are told that the sun is bad for you…… dont want to get burnt and there are times to use the sunblock but sun everyday for a little bit is really good for you. In fact there is a major defecency of vitamin D-3 in our children today because we are so afraid of the sun and are told not to be in it. Another reason is because we are on computers and games inside way more than we did even 25 years ago. Check out this link and also ask your family dr. on how much sun exposure you should be getting.

    Herbs have been around way before modern medicine and yes, there are some that are bad and can kill you…..we know about these and dont use them. In fact the Guarani Indians knew and used the stevia plant for its sweetness. Check out the link below to read about its history.

  5. Natural Sweetener means that you didn't add any kind of chemicals to it.
    However in the US, legally it doesn't mean anything. I drank a can of "peace tea" once which claimed to be 100% natural but it actually had sucralose in it. It didn't even say "diet" or "lite" or anything on it. So the label doesn't seem to mean anything at all.

    I'm not familiar with how this stevia extract stuff is produced, but my hunch is that a chemistry set is involved and its more than just an extraction using water or alcohol. It certainly could be natural. But I doubt this one is.

    My understanding was that Vernor's ginger which claims to be the longest running soft drink used to have stevia in it. I suspect they extracted it differently back then

  6. Stevia: Natural or Artificial? –


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