(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp, the world's largest coffee chain, said it would serve its first stevia-based, zero-calorie sweetener at select cafes in the U.S. and Canada.
The "Nature Sweet" packets by Whole Earth Sweetener Co will be available in nearly 9,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S. and Canada. (http://bit.ly/2clBOVe)
Starbucks had 15,300 company-operated and licensed stores in the Americas region, as of June.
Stevia is a naturally extracted low-calorie sugar substitute. "Nature Sweet" also contains extracts of the Southeast Asian monk fruit, with no artificial chemicals and is GMO-free.
Demand for artificial sweeteners like Splenda has slowed as consumers now look for products with natural ingredients. Splenda's sweetening agent, called sucralose, is made from sugar that has been chemically altered to make it calorie free. (http://reut.rs/2chqZWb)
Johnson & Johnson in August last year, said it would sell its Splenda sugar substitute to privately held Heartland Food Products Group.
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Archer Daniels Midland Co had said in June it would sell stevia and monk fruit sweeteners, as nutritionists and government officials seek to slow down rising obesity and diabetes.
Companies have been building up their portfolios in stevia including Cargill Inc [CARG.UL], Olam International Ltd, Louis Dreyfus Commodities [AKIRAU.UL] and ASR Group.
(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik and Jessica Kuruthukulangara in Bengaluru, Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)