Stevia shakes up the sweetener wars

If the new TV commercials for Truvia and PureVia are any indication, stevia has made a sudden and astonishing leapfrog from hippie sprinkle to bonafide challenger to the decades-long dominance of the blue (Equal), pink (Sweet and Low), and yellow (Splenda) packets on the tables of diners and coffee shops everywhere. Is its use in mainstream soda brands far behind? Hard to say, but one thing is pretty clear: the days of chemical-derived sweeteners are waning as consumers become more suspicious of foodstuffs which, as the food writer Michael Pollan says, can't be imagined growing in nature.

Stevia has been used by natives of South and Central America for centuries, and has long been highly-regarded for its intense sweetness, 30 times as sweet as sugar. It similarity to sugar is legendary: as Time magazine says of its key component, rebaudioside A, it has a "profile very similar to sugar with respect to onset, intensity and duration of sweetness."