As stevia continues to gain popularity—currently the number two low calorie sweetener in retail—restaurateurs are taking notice of growing demand among health-conscious consumers. Up until now operators had been reluctant to make space on their menus, due to taste concerns, but new product innovation has changed that. Most stevia-based sweeteners use a part of the plant called Reb A, which many consumers say leaves a bitter aftertaste. SPLENDA Naturals, a new and improved stevia sweetener, however contains an extract from a different part of the stevia leaf called Reb D which has all the sweetness without the aftertaste, making it a perfect addition to both non-alcoholic and spirits-focused beverage menus.
Chef, registered dietician, and certified personal trainer Diane Henderiks is a longtime stevia fan, “Now that SPLENDA has Naturals, which is a stevia sweetener, I am all over it—it falls into my health philosophy.”
Henderiks works alongside some of the biggest names in the restaurant industry, who call on her to create healthier versions of decadent menu items. “Items that have a sugar base—sweet and sour sauce, dressings, desserts—anything that would have a sugar component to them, you can use stevia,” she says.
Her approach extends to beverages, too. “Whether I want a mocktail, like an iced tea or lemonade, a Moscow mule, or a strawberry margarita, SPLENDA Naturals is a fantastic way to get health-conscious diners and drinkers like me to order beverages,” she says. “I tell all my chef friends about it because it can amp up their beverage sales. Many restaurant-goers are looking for healthier options, especially with alcohol and drink.”
With SPLENDA Naturals, a margarita that typically has 400 calories can be brought down to 50 calories. For Richard Sandoval’s beverage menu at La Sandia, which has two locations in Colorado and one in Virginia, Henderiks created a non-alcoholic Watermelon Agua Fresca with a stevia sweetener. And for SPLENDA, she created the Orange Palmer, a refreshing half tea, half orange juice concoction. “I like having a separate menu for lighter dishes or beverages that pulls them out of the regular menu,” she says. SPLENDA Naturals also works incredibly well in smoothies and breakfast menu items. “Smoothies for breakfast is one of my favorite things because it’s so easy to make it and get out the door,” Henderiks says.
To create awareness that your restaurant offers this natural, plant-based sweetener, consider adding a short explanation about what stevia is on the bar menu. Henderiks also encourages restaurant owners to have SPLENDA Naturals packets available in tabletop sugar caddies for beverages like iced tea and water. “The word ‘Naturals’ is a hook because it lets customers know the restaurant cares about consumers,” Henderiks says. “The fact they offer this shows the restaurant is thinking about them.”