There’s a new No. 2 zero-calorie sweetener in town. According to AC Nielsen, a company that tracks sales of grocery products, Truvia grew retail sales last year by almost 80% and knocked Sweet ‘N Low from its artificially sweetened perch in the tabletop sugar substitute market. That’s a pretty amazing feat for the two-year old brand launched by processed food agri-giant Cargill and co-developed by beverage goliath Coca-Cola. And if the online ad below is any indication, Truvia has moved on and is targeting the segment leader, Splenda.
One of the reasons for Truvia’s meteoric growth is that it claims to be a completely natural, guilt-free, zero-calorie sweetener made from the leaf of the stevia plant. Take a moment and watch its quirky television campaign and see how Truvia comes to life:
No wonder Truvia is growing like gangbusters. It’s Honestly Sweet. Yum! Where has this product been hiding all these years? But if all this marketing hype sounds too good to be true, you’re right. After digging to discover Truvia’s TRUE story, you may not be so excited to jump on its bandwagon.
First things first, is Truvia made from a leaf? Well the answer is kinda, sorta. Truvia has three ingredients: erythritol, rebiana, and natural flavors. Rebiana is made from the stevia leaf by soaking it in water. Although Cargill whitewashes the process as similar to making tea, the truth is revealed in Coca-Cola’s patent where it outlines a 40+ step process that includes the use of acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol. I don’t know about you, but when I make a cup of tea, I’ve never used any of those ingredients.
The second fallacy of Truvia’s “guilt-free” naturalness is it’s main ingredient, erythritol. Now while erythritol is a naturally-occurring sweetener found in many fruits, in nature it is present in such small amounts (less than .005% by weight) it’s impractical to use natural sources. So Cargill manufacturers Truvia’s erythritol by chemically converting genetically modified corn into a food grade starch which it ferments to create glucose and then processes further to create erythritol. Ah, the gentle hand of Mother Nature. Sorry for the sarcasm, but really Cargill? All Natural? Truvia sounds more like a GMO lab experiment than a sweetener straight from nature.
Finally, Cargill uses “natural flavors” to round out the taste of Truvia. On Truvia’s website it says “… Natural flavors are used to bring out the best of our natural sweetness, like pepper or salt would be used to heighten the taste of a meal.” The processed food industry’s dirty little secret about “natural flavors” is unlike regular table salt or pepper you and I use, food companies manufacture many “natural flavors” since the only legal requirement is that they are chemically equivalent to a natural flavor. So get back out the test tubes, beakers, and distilling equipment. Mother Nature’s not needed here either.
So when it’s all said and done, is Truvia really “Honestly Sweet”? I don’t think so. While it may pass the FDA’s sniff test, as we’ve seen in my series “All Natural … Really?” that really isn’t so hard to do.
What’s your opinion? Start the conversation and comment below. And if you have any ideas for products to review in my “All Natural … Really?” series, suggest them in a comment below or contact me by clicking the “contact” tab in the menu above.
Interested in learning more about how big food companies market their food? My new novel, Fat Profits, has just launched. Although its primary intent is to entertain, Fat Profits brings to life how big food companies work, illustrates the greed that drives food marketing, and shows how the forces surrounding our food (lobbyists, government, etc.) enable highly processed junk to become elevated in the minds of consumers as healthy foods. Interested? You can learn more about Fat Profits at its website or you can download a free chapter now.
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