A Closer Look At Those Ubiquitous Pink Packets

Cumberland Packaging Corporation first began packing a saccharine based sweetener into pink little packets back in 1957, and although the logo and graphics, and even the formula have all changed over the years; Cumberland still packs their sweetener into pink little packets today, just as they did 50 years ago.

Thus, although the original formula has long been discontinued, the little pink packet has become a familiar icon, both domestically, and abroad.

Sweet'n Low is currently marketed in many countries around the world. But don't just grab that familiar packet when abroad. Read the ingredient statement carefully. Sometimes it is printed in English as well as the native language, and if it is not, most times it is fairly easy to discern the ingredients.

"Why in the world would I read the ingredient statement" is a valid question. And the answer is simple: the packet may be pink, and the logo very familiar, but what's inside might not be the same as what you are used to :) . It might even contain ingredients which you consider banned from use in food products :) . ...And that wouldn't be saccharine.

Why Sweet'm Low has not stuck to their proven formula internationally might not be so difficult to understand, once one realizes that labeling laws are different in each country, and allowed and prohibited food ingredients vary from place to place as well. But that's my theory. There was surely more to their choices of ingredients than that.

Bottom line is, the Sweet'n Low packet in the US does not contain what the packet in Canada or elsewhere contains.

Here is a table of the known (to me) ingredient statements found on Sweet'n Low packets throughout the years, and the world. I added the calories, and use of the Kosher Symbol, as both are interesting aspects as well.

Year: Country: Ingredient Statement: Calories / Serv: Kosher Symbol:
  Australia Lactose (from milk), Sweetener (Saccharin), Flavoring. None
  Canada Dextrose, Sodium Cyclamate (34%), Silicon Dioxide. 2 None
  United Kingdom A blend of Acesulfame K, and Aspartame. None
1969 United States Lactose, 4% soluble saccharine, cream of tartar, a blend of nutritive and artificial sweeteners. 3.5 None
1990 United States Nutritive Dextrose, 4 % Calcium Saccharin, Cream of Tartar, Calcium Silicate 4 OU-Parve
1994 United States Nutritive Dextrose, 3.6 % Calcium Saccharin, Cream of Tartar, Calcium Silicate 0 OU-Parve

Look below, these are all the pink packets I have collected so far.

United States

Sweet'n Low has chosen for some time now to include an ingredient statement and nutrition facts on the back of their tiny pink packets, in the U.S., and as you will see below, in other countries abroad as well. In the U.S., this started before NLEA went into effect, and although NLEA does not require such declaration on single serving packages, which come in a properly labeled box, Sweet'n Low has continued including this info. This has led over the years, to an interesting array of designs, as if you don't declare info it is ok; but if you do, you must comply with the ever changing regulations.

I am assuming that this packet design is from 1969. Cyclamates were banned from use in food products in the US in 1970.

Funny, but they are still allowed in Canada, and are used in the Canadian version of Sweet'n Low.

Notice the warning, even before the 1977 FDA mandate. And still the little packet has become an icon :) .

The ingredient statement on this one reads: Lactose, 4% soluble saccharine, cream of tartar, a blend of nutritive and artificial sweeteners which should be used only by persons who must restrict their intake of ordinary sweets.



PMW stands for Pace Membership Warehouse. It's short existence lasted from 1984 to the early 90's.

I believe that this packet is from the mid 80's, or shortly thereafter. Just from the way the verbiage on the back reads.



Eastern Airlines went belly up in 1991. Hence this reverse design is from a time before NLEA took effect :) . Hence also the 4 calories :) , and "Low-Calorie Sugar Substitute."

With the advent of NLEA, 5 calories or less is considered insignificant, and can therefore be declared as 0 (as on packets further  below).

Interestingly, 1991 was also the year that the FDA repealed a proposed ban on saccharin :) , but continued requiring a warning label, which had been enforced since 1977. Hence the "hazardous to your health" on this Eastern airlines packet :) .

Notice also, a SODIUM claim :) , and the Circle U Parve. The latter is a Jewish designation, which certifies this product as Kosher. Circle U stands for the Orthodox Union, and some might say that the symbols presence means that the rabbi got paid quite well :D .

Now... Since this product is Kosher, is it also Halal???



This packet design still says "hazardous to your health", but this design is post NLEA. So... after 1994, but prior to 2001. Notice, no website address. When did they start putting that on their packets anyway? They sure still do have a crappy unprofessional looking website.

Notice, CALORIES now appear as 0. Per Sweet 'n Low's website: Each serving contains less than 4 calories which the FDA considers dietetically zero. In other words, less than 5 calories per serving is considered insignificant, and therefore can be declared as 0.

Notice also, the SODIUM FREE claim is gone :) . With the advent of NLEA, you cannot make a claim against X, if X is normally not present in such food.



This design is post 2000, as it has no  saccharin warning: On December 21 (2000), the President signed legislation to remove the warning label that had been required on saccharin-sweetened foods and beverages since 1977 ("SWEETEST" Act (H.R. 5668)).

Look close at this reverse design, and the one below it. Quite a few differences. So should it be "website" or "web site"?




This is the last reverse design before Trans Fat declaration became law on FDA labels.


Have you recently looked at that pink sweetener packet on the restaurant table? Probably not. But if you had, you no doubt noticed the modified logo. Had you read the back, you would have noticed that trans fat has been added to the nutrition facts.

Notice -> Trans Fat 0g.

This was not on the pink packets before, but due to the change in labeling law, I guess they took advantage of having it there :) .

How in the hell could it have any trans fat? Total fat is 0g! ...And therefore Trans Fat need not be declared. But I guess, in marketing to the masses, the majority of whom don't know nada about it, there might be an advantage of listing Trans Fat :) .

Notice also -> It is now a Zero Calorie Sweetener :) . But the "Zero Calorie Sweetener" change has not caught on completely just yet... The Foodservice of America packet has the "Granulated Sugar Substitute" on the front, and the new "Zero Calorie Sweetener" back :) . See below.




So "Zero Calorie" it is! This is a correct claim, as the entire packet is a serving, and has less than 5 calories :) . Were this not a single serving packet, it would have to declare "0 calories per serving."

Notice, the only difference on this back design, from the above, is the placement of the patent number.




To iterate my earlier comment, today Sweet'n Low is found all over the world. It is interesting though, it is not the same all over the world. So don't just grab that pink packet. Read the ingredient statement first. In many cases it is in English too, and in most cases where it is not, you can discern the ingredients.

Here are the packets from outside the US, that I have collected so far.


I like the front on this one. Still claims "No Bitter After Taste" :) .




So "








United Kingdom













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