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Universities are working to sweeten stevia’s taste, US yield

Stevia leaves.

Stevia leaves. Four universities are working to promote the sweetener as a crop to U.S. farmers. Most of the stevia consumed in the U.S. is grown in China. File photo

University researchers are leading an effort to improve the taste of a natural sweetener, and sweeten its yield in the United States.

Michigan State in East Lansing school has received a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its work with stevia, a leafy green perennial that researchers say produces roughly 25 sweet-tasting compounds. They aim to improve its flavor profile at the molecular level, probe consumer preferences and determine best farming practices and areas to grow it.

The university says in a release that most stevia consumed stateside is grown in China. U.S. food and beverage manufacturers who use it seek domestically sourced ingredients.

Michigan State scientists are working with researchers at North Carolina State, Alabama A&M and Fort Valley State universities.

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