Equal is a brand of artificial sweetener containing aspartame, acesulfame potassium, dextrose and maltodextrin. It is marketed as a tabletop sweetener by Merisant, a global corporation which also used to own the well-known NutraSweet brand when it was a subsidiary of Monsanto and which has headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, Switzerland, Mexico, and Australia. In French Canada, Equal is known as "Égal".
In the early 1980s, Equal and its European counterpart, Canderel, were the first aspartame-based sweeteners to be sold to the public. Originally, the product was to be named Equa. The Chicago advertising agency for G. D. Searle, Tatham, Laird & Kudner, recommended adding an "l" to the end of the name, to imply its taste is equal to sugar.
Equal is sold variously as a bottled powder ("Equal Spoonful"), in blue individual-serve sachets or packets, and as a dissolving tablet for use in beverages such as tea and coffee.
An Equal sachet contains dextrose, aspartame (1.7%), acesulfame potassium (1.2%), starch, silicon dioxide (an anti-caking agent), maltodextrin, and unspecified flavouring. Equal tablets may also contain lactose.
Despite ongoing controversy as to whether aspartame is safe or harmful, aspartame-based products have gained regulatory approvals permitting sale in more than 100 countries. Merisant's NutraSweet company states that aspartame is now used in more than 5,000 products and consumed by some 250 million people worldwide. These include The Coca-Cola Company and Pepsico.
In 2006-2007, Merisant and McNeil Nutritionals were involved in a protracted legal battle over marketing for Splenda. (Main article: Sucralose.) On January 9, 2009, Merisant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Aspartame-containing products made by NutraSweet / Merisant
- Canderel - sold in most of Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Mexico. It is the leading aspartame-based sweetener in France (where it was launched in 1979) and the United Kingdom (since 1983).
- Equal - first sold in the United States in 1982; also sold in New Zealand, Malaysia Thailand, Australia, South Africa and India.
- EqualSweet - sold in Argentina.
- NutraSweet - used as an ingredient in many processed foods, drinks and tablets, in 1997 it also began to be marketed as a table sweetener in the United States. NutraSweet in now owned by an investment company out of Boston by the name J.W. Childs and has no affiliation to Merisant.
- Acesulfame potassium (also referred to as "Ace-K" on the "Club Equal" website)
- Aspartame controversy
- Sugar substitute