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Neotame:  The new, more controversial, form of aspartame, 13,000 times sweeter because 3-dimethylbutyl [on EPA's Most Hazardous Chemical's List] is added.

Local sugarcane finds its way into "Caddy Wars" as battle for sweetener success heats up

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Monday, June 08, 2009

Yellow Splenda. Blue Equal. Pink Sweet 'N Low. Old-fashioned white granulated sugar, produced right here in Palm Beach County.The colorful sweetener market is getting downright crowded - and competitive, as packets fight for space in restaurant "caddys."

The usual sweetener suspects

Now there's a new color in town: green-clad stevia, a plant-derived sweetener used for centuries in South America. In December, after years of opposition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, abruptly cleared the path for a highly purified form to sweeten foods and beverages.

Welcome to caddy wars.

The introduction of stevia, the newest combatant, has touched off unlikely liaisons, created colorful marketing confusion and reinvigorated the fight for control of which sweeteners get stirred, poured and sprinkled both in restaurants and eventually, at home.

Through their connection to Domino Foods Inc., West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals Corp. and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida in Belle Glade are fighting back by joining hands with the enemy: NutraSweet Co., the Chicago-based maker of rival aspartame.

The local companies jointly own American Sugar Refining Inc. and the Domino sugar brand.

Domino and NutraSweet have developed a "caddy strategy" in the war of the packets, mixing up sugar and artificial sweeteners and perhaps confusingly for consumers, colors, with a line of new products such as NutraSweet Cane.

Introduced this year, NutraSweet Cane's yellow packets contain both sugar and two artificial sweeteners, taking direct aim at yellow-clad Splenda.

"We decided to go into each category - each color - and develop a product that was unique and better," said NutraSweet CEO Craig Petray.

But already, some consumers are bristling from the sugar caddy confusion. A recent posting on the blog from a consumer named, Tina, expressed outraged over when she picked up a "pink packet" to sweeten her iced tea at Burger King and noticed it was NutraSweet Pink, not Sweet n'Low.

She checked it out later and found out that the NutraSweet packet was not saccharine, but contained neotame, which she had never heard of.

So is the unlikely pairing of sugar and sweetener folks; who for years have had a relationship more akin to the Hatfields and McCoys. For years, alternative sweetener manufacturers have marketed their products by attacking sugar as too caloric, seeking to blame it for the nation's obesity epidemic.

The sugar industry has shot back that sugar, unlike artificial sweeteners, is natural and at 15 calories a teaspoon, not that calorie-filled.

"Sugar is the gold standard and everything else is trying to come as close as possible to it," sniffs Brian O'Malley, Domino's president and CEO.

But, said O'Malley, "We decided to launch an artificial line of products in recognition that there are consumers who will not eat sugar; either they cannot or do not want to."

Only a few years ago, NutraSweet viewed sugar and high fructose corn syrup, another major sweetener, as "the enemy," Petray said. Then, "Five or six years ago, we got on a whole blending kick."

They opened a lab called "Sweet Spot," in Chicago, to specialize in sweetener blending. "We take out a little bit of high fructose corn syrup or sugar and put in other sweeteners, and have the products taste the same," Petray said.

Blended products that are a mix of sugar and another sweetener are becoming more common, and consumers will see more and more "hybrid blends" in foods and beverages too, Petray said. For example, Sunny Delight, a popular kids beverage, has both corn syrup and artificial ingredients neotame and ace-k. [Unlike Aspartame, Neotame does not have to be listed as an ingredient.]

The partnership's first product was blue-packeted NutraSweet, a blend of aspartame and ace-k, designed to compete with Equal, which has just aspartame. "It has a better up-front sweetness and less of a linger," Petray said of "blue," launched last year.

The latest offering, brought out at the National Restaurant Association in Chicago in May, is a green-packeted product called "100 percent Natural NutraSweet with Stevia." It contains 98 percent sugar, but 90 percent of the sweetness is from stevia, Petray said.

At first glance, the packets and boxes of the blended sweeteners look almost identical to the products they seek to usurp. For instance, NutraSweet "blue" boxes could be mistaken for Equal, which is known for blue packaging.

New Pink's pink packets and boxes compete with pink-packeted saccharine, though New Pink brags right on the box that it is "saccharine free," and has an "extra sweet taste." It is formulated to taste "just like Sweet 'N Low," Petray said. "During our market research, we found the one thing consumers did not like about (Sweet 'N Low) pink was that it has saccharine in it" - despite the fact that Sweet 'N Low is practically synonymous with saccharine.

The blending strategy continues throughout the product line, which is all manufactured and distributed by Domino and sold along with its sugar products. The sweeteners formulated by NutraSweet are marketed by both Domino and NutraSweet, and so far have been distributed primarily to restaurants and hotels, with grocery stores expected to be added later.

Petray said there's much more to come from NutraSweet's alliance with Domino Sugar.

Jun 10, 2009 9:57 PM  
Stevia is all natural (like sugar cane) and about 350 times more potent than sugar, without the chemical issues. 

By Joyce Grace
Jun 10, 2009 1:25 PM  
If you are looking for an all natural sweetner, then stick with sugar or stevia. Stevia is an herb that does not raise your blood sugar level. Warning: Pure stevia extract is VERY sweet and cloying. I purchased some at my local Fresh and Easy supermarket and I only need to use a 1/3 of the 25mg scoop to sweeten my tea. I used a whole scoop in my coffee and I was tasting it for about an hour.

By Tom Martin
Jun 9, 2009 10:26 AM 
Stick with Stevia. The Japanese have been using it for over 30 years without a health related complaint. Funny how the Japanese have one of the longest life expectancy rates on the planet.


Neotame: Next generation of aspartame problems. [At least aspartame is required by law to appear marked, somewhere on the ingredient label. Neotame is not!] Traveled from Monsanto Chemical Company (original patent holder) to The NutraSweet Company to J.W. Childs Partnership to Pharmacia to Pfizer. First petitioned in 1997, Neotame was approved in 2002 as safe for chewing gum, carbonated soft drinks, refrigerated and non-refrigerated ready-to-drink beverages, frozen desserts and novelties, puddings and fillings, yogurt products, baked goods, and candies.
For more information:

Aspartame Consumer Safety Network and Pilot Hotline 
[Promoting FDA Recall of Aspartame - since 1987]