Keto on a budget, the sweetener conundrum. Can you do keto on a budget? Hell yes. We’ve already talked about veggies, dairy, nuts, and the most important ingredient (you). Today let’s hit what is probably the most difficult part to do economically – sweeteners.
Seems like every keto sweetener is $999.99 for a bag the size of a baby turtle. It is crazy how much they charge for this stuff. I know the argument: this is a niche market so we need to recoup our costs.
It is a niche market so you can overcharge and get away with it. almost 10% of the world population has been diagnosed with some form of diabetes. That’s almost a half billion people, a 500% increase since 1980. The US has 77,000,000 known diabetics as of 2020. Now that number is pretty sad, but you know what numbers are worse? 36.5% of the US is clinically obese, with an additional 32.5% considered overweight and approaching obesity. Read those again. 69% of the US population has a diet or metabolic health issue. SIXTY-NINE! So, no, non-sugar, low-glycemic impact sweeteners shouldn’t be considered “niche.”
Once you step back from the argument above, there’s something else to consider: commercial usage. Every single – think about the numbers on this one – tube of toothpaste sold in first world countries has a non-sugar sweetener. Every diet, low calorie, diabetic, health-focused, or fitness food product as one or more non-sugar sweeteners in them. Every diet-labeled drink has a non-sugar sweetener in it. The world consumes 1.7 billion servings of just Coke products a day, with Diet Coke outselling Classic Coke by 7%. Every sugar-free candy has a non-sugar sweetener. Ok, so some of those aren’t the greatest but still, this is another staggering number. Some of these sweeteners have more than one use, they can also be emulsifiers, binders, anti-bacterial, and in the case of erythritol, a powerful insecticide. So this is a LOT of products. Don’t tell me these sweeteners are “niche” when they are sold in billions of servings a day. And, not all these companies are “tiny” or “niche” companies. Who owns Truvia? Coke. Who just sold Splenda a few years back? Johnson & Johnson. The “In the Raw” products? Same company that also owns Sweet’n Low. Who produces 44% of the stevia in the world? PepsiCo. You get the picture. This isn’t niche business, this is big business.
So, why is it so expensive? Good question. Marketing. It is still considered niche – though with the boom of keto and low carb products and lifestyles – this might change a little, but don’t count on it.
So, what do we do? Like I discussed in the sugar alcohols post, many of these sweeteners are less sweet than typical sugar, so you might end up using more, which makes the whole budget thing harder. The best thing to do is to either buy blends, or buy in bulk and blend your own. Products like Pyure ($6.99\lb) are twice as sweet as sugar and 150% sweeter than straight erythritol. That comes out to a more palatable $3.50 per pound of sweetener when judged off sweetness, unlike Swerve which is 1:1 compared to Sugar at $9.99\lb. Natural sweeteners like stevia and monkfruit are 2-300x the sweetness of sugar. Pure stevia powder has a ratio of 1/32nd of a teaspoon is the same as 1/4 cup of sugar. Erythritol bulks better, but crystalizes when cooked then cooled, which might not be what you want. Additionally, you can only subtract 70% of the calories and carbs. There’s allulose, which is a natural “rare” sugar, same sweetness profile as erythritol, but none of the carbs and acts like regular sugar when baking with it. It makes excellent caramel, but it is still pricy at $12.99 a pound from Anthony’s (disclaimer: I was one of the first Anthony’s Goods affiliate partners. I believe in their products and have been my only affiliate program for 6 years). They also sell a monk fruit\erythritol blend that is 2:1 for sugar like Pyure, and straight erythritol for under $5\lb (take that Swerve) when bought in 2.5lb bags (and free shipping). I offer both Swerve and Lakanto here in my store at bulk pricing, not because I think it is the best deal out there, but because people still want it regardless of how things might be in reality.
You can find good prices on these things from a variety of sources, not just Anthony’s. Shop around online, this is going to be where you will get them for the least money. Netrition, IHerb, Swanson Health are all good online retailers that sell at decent prices. Amazon used to be a good source for this stuff too, but lately their prices have gotten stupid. You can look there, you might find a gem like this 4lb package of Whole Earth erythritol for $16, but deals like this are less common than they used to be. Like we discussed the other day with protein powder, it pays (literally) to know your servings and to shop around.