Nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar, rebaudioside-A (derived from the plant stevia and sold as Truvía, PureVia, and Stevia Extract in the Raw) is assaulting the nation’s consumers with the alluring combination of natural origins and a comparatively low calorie content. A massive national rollout of stevia-sweetened beverages has begun, and baking applications are being frantically tested.

The one immediate sticking point? A licoricelike bite. The Chicago Tribune got the scoop, if you define “scoop” as “quote from the official spokeswoman.”

“‘Stevia has always had challenges in terms of its flavor profile,’ said Ann Clark Tucker, spokeswoman for Cargill, which produces Truvia. ‘That’s where it’s crucial to find the right plant variety [there are more than 200] and blend it with the natural flavors, which are the equivalent to salt and pepper in that they enhance or bring out the flavors’ characteristics.’”

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