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Coke and Cargill file patents for all-natural, calorie-free sweetener

BY Tara Smith

WASHINGTON Coca-Cola and Cargill recently filed for 24 U.S. patents related to stevia, a South American herb, 300 times sweeter than sucrose, used to sweeten food and beverages, according to published reports.

“Stevia is the world’s only zero-calorie, zero-glycemic, all-natural sweetener,” says Steve May, innovator of Arizona-based SweetLeaf stevia products. “It’s kind of the holy grail of the sweetener business.”

Coca-Cola and Cargill spent more than four years researching stevia before submitting information for patents. Neither company has a timetable for introducing stevia in the United States. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the process for U.S. approval of food additives can take years, with companies submiting information supporting an ingredient’s safety. If and when Coke and Cargill achieve FDA approval, stevia could be sold as a sweetener and used as a food and drink ingredient.

Currently, studies suggest that the Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni varietal has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and also fights against diabetes, high blood pressure and tooth decay. The 2-foot shrubby herb is native to Paraguay, where its native people have added the leaves to drinks and bread dough for centuries.

Stevia is available in the United States alongside dietary supplements in various forms, including liquid concentrate, powder and fresh or dried leaves.

The sweet herb also is gaining a chic reputation among the eco-trendy. In August, it was dubbed “Sweetener to the Stars” by Advertising Age magazine because it is popular at celebrity hangouts in Los Angeles and New York City.

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Long Tail Libations launches high-end organic vodka

BY Tara Smith

CHICAGO Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Budweiser, is branching out beyond domestic beer with the launch of its own superpremium organic vodka, Purus.

Made from Italian wheat, Purus is the second spirits brand developed by Anheuser-Busch’s product development arm, Long Tail Libations. The first, launched in 2005, was Jekyll & Hydle, a combination of raspberry and licorice-flavored liqueurs. Purus, selling for $35 a bottle, will initially be marketed in the most exclusive high-end lounges, restaurants and specialty grocery and liquor stores in the Northeast, according to the company.

The teardrop-shaped bottle touts Purus’ green credentials: it is 100 percent recyclable and the “tree-free” label uses soy-based ink. The company also said it will plant one tree for each of the first 100,000 registrants at Purus’ Web site. The company is looking to further extend its portfolio—over the summer it filed trademark applications for pomegranate and acai-flavored vodkas and cachaca.

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Hershey’s outsourcing plans have a bitter taste

BY Tara Smith

HERSHEY, Pa. Hershey’s cutbacks, plant closings and outsourcing have people questioning how “American” the “great American chocolate bar” is. As the chocolate company closes six American and Canadian plants to move production lines to plants in Mexico, 1,500 U.S. Jobs will be cut.

After 100 years of churning out Hershey chocolate, one central Pennsylvania plant will be silenced, along with two plants in Connecticut and California, as production moves to plants in Mexico, cutting 1,500 U.S. jobs. Three more plants in Canada also will be closed.

Company spokesman Kirk Saville said in a statement that moving more production lines to Mexico will help guarantee a majority of Hershey products will be made and sold in America. He added that the changes were necessary for the confectionary company to remain competitive in the global marketplace. “When these changes are complete, 90 percent of the items that Hershey sells in the United States and Canada will continue to be made in these countries,” he said

Saville also stated that Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, Hershey’s Kisses and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will continue to be made in central Pennsylvania, but by fewer people.

But members of the Chocolate Workers Union Local 464, including Dennis Bomberger, are concerned outsourcing production will hurt products still made in the United States. “What we don’t want happening is the product we continue to make in Hershey [being] hurt by the perception that it’s made in Mexico,” Bomberger stated.

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