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Taste test: sugar substitutes, Part 2

This week our panelists sipped cups of hot tea containing brands of artificial sweeteners to see if they could discern any differences in taste. In the Feb. 1 Taste section, we reported our tasters' opinions on seven other imitation sugar packets, with the options from Winn-Dixie and Walmart and the Splenda brand coming out on top. They sampled seven more this week, in the tea and also by dipping their fingers in the plain powders. As in the previous tasting, the Walmart store brand did well. Each packet sampled was supposed to taste like the equivalent of 2 teaspoons of sugar. The imitation sweeteners were primarily made with aspartame, saccharin, sucralose or stevia leaf extract. Two of this week's picks were a sugar alcohol called erythritol.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent


(out of 100)
Splenda Naturals 45Truvia 44Great Value 43

Judges liked the sense that they were sampling real sugar granules when they tried this substitute. "It's crunchy and sugary," said one panelist. "It's smooth and great and has lots of promise. It is really good in tea, too." Another said: "It adds a really nice sense of sweetness to a cup of tea." Judges also appreciated the lack of a bitter aftertaste in the Splenda. "I could use this in a baking recipe for sure," said one panelist. The Truvia didn't seem to dissolve as well as some of the others when added to tea, but the powder contained big flakes of what looked like real sugar. "This actually tastes like sugar," said one judge. "It has a nice, subtle sweetness." Another said he detected a slight, disagreeable aftertaste. "It's sweet and sour and sweet again," he said. One judge claimed to get a "sugar buzz" from the Truvia. Overall, panelists said it was a good substitute for the real thing.Great Value's little blue packets of sugar substitute would be the preferred option for baking for a couple of judges. "It's granulated sugarlike and it's excellent with tea," said one. "It's sweet on the tongue with no telltale fakeness." Another said it had the perfect balance of sweetness "and really reminds me of sugar." Only one panelist outright rejected this option, saying it was too weak.

they buy?
Two of the four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$3.48 for a 2.8-ounce box of 40 packets from Walmart.$3.47 for a 5-ounce box of 48 packets from Walmart$3.96 for an 8.8-ounce box of 250 packets from Walmart.

Also Sampled: Publix ($1.79 for a 1.76-ounce box of 50 packets, 34 points); Sweet'N Low ($1.96 for a 3.5-ounce box of 100 packets from Walmart, 27 points); Zing ($2.68 for a 1.4-ounce box of 40 packets from Walmart, 21 points); and Equal ($4.58 for an 8.8-ounce box of 250 packets from Walmart, 22 points).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; and Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. All products were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Serving size1 packet1 packet1 packet
Fat/Fiber0g / 0g0g / 0g0g / 0g
Sugars/Sodium0g / 0mg0g / 0mg0g / 0mg
Carbs/Protein2g / 0g3g / 0g0g / 0g

Taste test: sugar substitutes, Part 2 02/06/17 [Last modified: Monday, February 6, 2017 3:59pm]
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