Did you know Oct.14 was National Dessert Day? Yes, I also just got the message. The holiday bumps right up to National Candy Corn Day which will take place on Oct. 30. While I'm in full support of quirky holidays to honor the inane (International Talk Like a Pirate Day on Sept. 19 is a favorite), do Americans really need another reason to indulge? I'm not sure who originated these days, but they are getting plenty of attention. Bloggers, websites and news organizations including the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post promoted dessert day with recipes for "hundreds of cakes, cookies, pies and more." Yeah! What better way to prepare for Halloween than by already gearing up your body to consume copious amounts of sugar?
Spurred by the growing popularity of these days designated for digging in, Robert Brooke has made it his mission to wean Americans off refined sugar. The bioengineer and health care investor is dedicated to bringing stevia to the masses through his development-stage, agri-bio business Stevia First, which is focused on the domestic industrial-scale production of stevia. The Yuba City, Calif.-based company has built a business model based on transparency which Brooke thinks will encourage big CPGs to give sugar the shove.
"If you have Coca-Cola and Pepsi and Cargill and other major food and beverage manufacturers looking to make investments in the space, you have to look at what's going to hold them back or what's going to enable them to do that," Brooke told Food Navigator. "The more you can add transparency and reliability and scalability to the supply chain for stevia, it makes it all the more likely that they will soon make those investments."
Whatever his motivation, it can't be denied that encouraging brands to swap out sugar and other artificial sweeteners for a more natural source is a good idea. The American Heart Association recommends we consume no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day—yet the average adult gets about 22 teaspoons and the average child ingests 32 teaspoons. Our overconsumption is linked to a host of health woes among them diabesity, heart disease and depression. Most consumers recognize they should consume less, however as anyone who's tried to break the sugar habit knows, getting off is tough. In fact, last year, 60 Minutes reported that sugar activates the brain in a way that’s similar to cocaine.
Brooke's hurdle is getting brands and consumers to try and like stevia. It's 200 times sweeter than sugar which means getting it to pass for the real deal does take a degree in bioengineering. I appreciate Brooke taking on sugary holidays for sharing his cause, but perhaps real success would come from joining forces? A stevia-sweetened candy corn may be just the ticket.