Sweetener Packet Wars … caveat emptor!
In the dining section of the NY Times last Wednesday, there was a somewhat alarming article by Kim Severson, titled: Showdown at the Coffee Shop (free but requires registration) detailing the entry of the new sweetener Truvia to the world of packet sweeteners.
We’d already heard about its arrival at the Natural Foods Expo West show last March in Anaheim and had even sampled some of it. While I’m glad to see a natural alternative in the low-and-no calorie sweetener department, I’m personally not crazy about this one. Truvia is a blend of rebiana, an extract of stevia, and erythritol, a sugar alcohol. Thought there may be many good things about erythritol, to my taste buds it has a cold, metallic edge that I don’t enjoy. Others who don’t catch that taste twinge would perhaps feel differently about it and will love Truvia’s green packets in the sweetener caddy beside the blue, pink, and yellow ones.
Of course, by convention, for many many years, consumers have associated artificial sweeteners with a particular packet color: blue for aspartame products, pink for saccharine products, yellow for sucralose products, and green for stevia products. And it is related to this topic that I found the real eye-popper in this piece…the big news in my humble opinion…buried in the continuation of the article on page D5:
Consumers are loyal to their favorite sweetener, and to the color of its packet. Now manufacturers like Mr. Petray [CEO of Nutrasweet, which makes aspartame] are mixing up the color code, putting new sweetener combinations in the familiar pink, blue, and yellow.
This is news! And, in my mind, underhanded and sneaky and ethically fuzzy. The article goes on…
His challenge to Splenda combines aspartame and a touch of sugar in a yellow packet called NutraSweet Cane…Mr. Petray’s entry in the stevia wars is called Natural NutraSweet, which comes in a green packet, of course. And the company created a new saccharin-free pink packet, too. [The article didn’t say what was in that pink packet, however, but since it’s coming from NutraSweet we can be sure that one of the ingredients will be aspartame.]
The yellow packet, especially, is worrisome to me, since most low-carbers avoid aspartame because of some reports that suggest it might be particularly detrimental to the brains of people on a low carb eating plan. And this yellow imposter will have not only aspartame but sugar…real honest to Pete sugar! In the very yellow, pink, and green packets that many of us have come to trust do NOT contain aspartame, there will now be aspartame.
(For a longer discussion on the various sweeteners, see a previous blog post of mine here.)
Once these imposter packets make their way into the commercial market, consumers or diners will no longer be able to rely on colors alone to select their sweetener. We’ll all have to be careful label-readers to keep from being duped.