The overriding conclusion of the majority of the research and expertise is the need for an immediate reduction in the intake of sugar.
A significant reduction in excess sugar consumption may well be achieved through efforts within the beverage industry and a dedicated shift towards high-potency natural sweeteners, where stevia is the clear leader.
In the age of instant information, where nothing remains a mystery for long, and where the World Health Organization recommends less than a single sugar-loaded soda per day, one has to wonder how we continue to consume such massive quantities of sugar. It’s a problem that becomes more difficult when we see how it’s intertwined with socioeconomic, racial, and educational issues. Studies reveal sugar-related health issues disproportionately affect minorities in America, and are a likely contributor to the health disparities that exist today. One staggering indicator of these health disparities is that the life expectancy of African Americans is persistently 5 to 7 years less than those of European descent. Also, both adult African and Latin Americans are almost twice as likely to develop diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. There are many elements at play, not just diet and nutrition, but it is clear that the consumption of sugar-loaded beverages cuts across these exact cultural and socioeconomic lines.
In LA County, for example, 28% of adults earning an annual income 3 times the federal poverty level ($70K per year), drink one or more sugar-loaded beverages per day. Meanwhile, more than 50% of people below the federal poverty level drink at least one sugar-loaded beverage daily. Strikingly, only 27.5% of Caucasians, versus 48% of African Americans and 51% of Latinos consume at least one soda, or sugar sweetened beverage per day. For college graduates, the rate is 27%, with a major jump to 54% for adults that didn’t graduate high school. The evidence clearly positions the poor and the less educated as major consumers of sugar-loaded beverages, and thus suffering disproportionately from associated adverse health effects. And we may be nearing a breaking point soon.
What will it take to effect change?
Alternatives to sugar are viable and increasingly available. Breakthrough products like stevia are one reason a true decline in sugar consumption may be imminent, as it represents a workable alternative for major food and beverage companies, which they can immediately sell to consumers (and to their shareholders, boards and executives).
Because of this, a sugar-alternative transformation may occur much sooner than has been suggested. Replacement products using stevia with a taste and consistency similar to major industry flagship brands are starting to hit the market. The next phase involves a shift by major food and beverage companies so beverage consumers can enjoy healthier beverages at public events, like concerts and sporting events. One shining example, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum opened the 2014 MLB season with the first-ever stevia-sweetened beverage option at a major sports venue. The shift may also be catalyzed by a health-conscious fast-food company like sandwich juggernaut Subway, the top national fast-food chain based on number of locations.
As dramatic sugar reduction occurs, however it happens, the role of Stevia First is to be ready. When it does, the demand for stevia could reasonably triple. Fortunately, major food and beverage companies aren’t resisting this change, they’re embracing it. In fact, acceptance by two of the industry’s largest, Coca-Cola and Cargill, paved the way for stevia’s approval in the U.S. This opened the floodgates for stevia products in 2008, and led to worldwide regulatory approvals. Passionate people at these organizations are supporting stevia and talk openly about ways to enable calorie reduction on a massive scale. Despite their vast resources, one problem they haven’t been able to solve is how to deliver a reliable supply of stevia each year. This is a problem we’ve been focused on from the beginning and Stevia First will cater to the growing demands of these companies. Over the last three years, for instance, we’ve developed an enzyme enhancement process that could increase stevia supplies by 2 or 3 times. We’re now coupling that technology with a large overseas supply chain and plans for the first dedicated stevia processing facilities in California.