Probably the biggest news in the diet drink arena this past year has been the introduction of soft drinks sweetened with stevia. The FDA anointed stevia GRAS status (Generally Regarded as Safe), which means it can be used in food products without requiring approvals for each specific product.
Although some consumers groups objected, citing insufficient research into long term effects of its use, the general public and manufacturers seemed pleased with the addition of a natural low calorie sweetener. Stevia sweeteners such as Reb-A are 300 times sweeter than table sugar. They are derived from a South American plant and come virtually calorie free.
And so, drinks from Odwalla, Tropicana, and others have been formulated using Reb-A, and marketed with much hype and hoo-ha.
Unfortunately for stevia manufacturers, who for years battled to gain FDA approval, there may be a new obstacle to stevia’s massive adoption – its price tag. A recent report by business research organization KnowGenix has pointed out that the cost of stevia extracts compared to artificial sweetners is substantially higher, and therefore it may not prove economically viable for many drinks.
Seems a bit odd to us, what with the zillions of dollars that drink manufacturers are making by selling us water, colors, and sugar (or substitutes) in pretty bottles. But then recall the massive switch from sugar to high fructose corn syrup in the 1980′s because each bottle was a few pennies cheaper to manufacture.
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