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Cargill announces release of sweetener made from stevia

BY Jenna Duncan

WAYZATA, Minn. Cargill today introduced that it will be launching a natural sweetener, Truvia, made from leaves of the South American herb stevia.

Cargill has called the release of the new calorie-free sweetener a “milestone” because of its proposed uses in foods, beverages and for home use.

“We have spent more than two years validating the consumer demand for this new sweetener,” said Marcelo Montero, president of Cargill Health & Nutrition. “Soon consumers will recognize Truvia for quality and great taste, delivering the first natural, zero calorie sweetness people have been asking for.”

Truvia comes from rebiana, the leafy part of the stevia plant which is a shrub native to Paraguay, also grown in China for commercial purposes. A process of drying and then steeping the leaf in water releases the taste of the rebiana, which reportedly has a sweetness 200 times more potent than sugar.

Cargill has announced the release of Truvia the same day that a report was released online by the Food and Chemical Toxicology detailing results of a research study into the safety of rebiana. The study evaluated rebiana use for safety, stability and its effect on metabolism, as well as other health related effects.

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Research shows use of sought-after sweetener is safe

BY Jenna Duncan

ROCKVILLE, Md. A study into possible health effects associated with stevia, a natural, calorie-free herb used to make sweetener being researched for use in U.S. food production, concluded that the additive is safe. The study is expected to be published next week online, sources said.

A Web journal called Food and Chemical Toxicology is slated to publish findings from the study, funded by Cargill. Cargill and Coca-Cola are working towards gaining U.S. regulatory approval for a sweetener extracted from the South American herb, branded Truvia.

In the 1990s, the FDA denied stevia for use as an additive, stating that there was not enough evidence to prove its safety. However, it was approved later to be sold as a dietary supplement.

Some reports, dating back to 1985, have said that stevia can cause mutations in the livers of rats and potential fertility problems for men. Coke and Cargill have disputed these claims and insisted that their new product is much different from unrefined forms of stevia used in early testing. The companies are moving to go ahead with product development and distribution in countries that have approved stevia for use, such as Brazil, China and Japan.

Though some countries have reportedly banned stevia, a recent report by the World Health Organization said there were no major toxicity risks associated, but also said more studies should be done on the health effects on people with hypertension and diabetics.

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Pepsi revamps Web site, boosts digital media presence

BY Jenna Duncan

PURCHASE, N.Y. Pepsi-Cola North America has given its Web site, pepsi.com, a total makeover.

The purpose of the Pepsi site re-launch was to simplify the visitor experience, the company said. Pages were designed so users can easily select links to four main features, including: the Design Our Pepsi Can promotion contest, Diet Pepsi Max information pages, the Pepsi Racing page featuring NASCAR tie-ins and Pepsi Stuff, the site’s merchandise page.

“Lots of assets live on our pages,” John Vail, director of interactive marketing group for Pepsi-Cola North America said. “We wanted to make an easy way to find so consumers don’t have to hunt and peck.”

Pepsi.com was launched in 1996 and gets a facelift about every two years. The company said that the site receives about a million unique hits per month.

Each year, Pepsi North America seems to move even more of its marketing efforts to digital media. In 2007, the company spent about $17.5 million on digital media for its beverage brands, nearly doubling the amount spent in 2006 ($9.4 million), according to reports.

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