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Originally published September 27 2007

Stevia sweetener going mainstream as new Sunwin brand lands on grocery store shelves

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A new, stevia-based sweetener is now available in major retail outlets across the United States, even though stevia has yet to be approved as a food additive, according to the product's manufacturer.

Sunwin Stevia International, a subsidiary stevia manufacturer of Sunwin International Neutraceuticals, produces a product called OnlySweet. The product is a blend of stevia, maltodextrin and a secret flavoring ingredient to mask the naturally occurring bitter aftertaste of stevia. OnlySweet entered the market in December, and can now be found in Albertson's, Brookshire, Kroger and Schnucks. Sunwin plans to have the product available in 3000 stores by July.

Stevia, derived from a South American plant, is approved for use as a dietary supplement in the United States. It has not been approved as a food additive in the U.S. or Europe, but it has been so approved in approximately 12 other countries, including Brazil, China and Japan.

Stevia has up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, but with a slower release and a longer duration. It is commonly used as a sweetener in South America and Asia, and among a niche market of health or eco-conscious consumers in the United States.

The popularity of stevia has been growing in recent years. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Coca-Cola Company and Cargill Foods are working together on a stevia sweetener; Coca-Cola has already filed 24 U.S. patents for it.

"We believe this is going to shape the sweetener industry," said Steven Silbert, executive vice president of Sunwin. "Sales of diet sodas are down because people are concerned about things like aspartame and sucralose. They're looking for something more natural."

Silbert says that Sunwin is currently focusing on supplying stevia as a retail product only. However, the prospect of supplying the food or beverage industries "has not been discounted."

"It's a potentially big avenue for our product," he said.

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