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Coca-Cola’s first stevia Coke launches in Argentina

The world’s largest soda company has used stevia in 45 products, such as Vitaminwater Zero and Fanta Select, but never in its flagship cola. In March Coca-Cola in Britain announced that a mid-calorie, stevia-sweetened Sprite would entirely replace the existing drink.

This latest move now puts Atlanta-based Coke ahead of archrival PepsiCo in the race for better-tasting low-calorie beverages as the US carbonated soft drink market continues to decline because of growing concerns about sugary drinks and obesity.

According to reports, no dates have been set for launches elsewhere.

If Coca-Cola Argentina’s Twitter account is anything to go by, the pic below is what new Coca-Cola Life looks like.

Is there a real future for stevia in the cola category?

Will stevia ever become a viable option for colas, or is this was instead more of a stop gap measure for Coca-Cola until new high-intensity, zero-calorie, natural sweeteners come online?

Mintel analyst David Turner told “Whilst this Coke [with stevia] may not be their last development, it is by no means a stop gap. Coke have recently signed a five year partnership agreement with on of the world’s largest stevia producer Pure Circle.”

Developments on stevia and other natural sweeteners continued and “there may well be new recipes as time progresses”, Turner added.

This was certainly the case when the first wave of artificial sweeteners were used many years ago, the analyst noted, pointing to Tab (Coke’s first diet soda launched in 1963 with cyclamates and saccharin), “so we may expect 2.0 versions as flavour development improves”.

He believes this is an interesting development for Latin American, as few products with stevia have been launched in the region. But with obesity a growing issue in many countries in Latin America (with particular problems in Brazil and Mexico) Turner added, “any initiative that can provide naturally low calorie products would be well received, providing taste and cost is not prohibitive”.

‘Stevia does not work well in colas’: PepsiCo CEO

Coke seems to be responding to PepsiCo’s recent cola moves; February 2013 saw PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi tell analysts on the firm’s Q4 earnings call that there had been a lack of “truly meaningful innovation on colas since the introduction of Diet in the 1960s”, and promised “disruptive innovation” from her firm to revive the category.

A few months later at a conference in New York, Nooyi decried a “maniacal focus” on declining cola volumes among analysts, but later reaffirmed the importance of the category within carbonates.

“When we go and talk to consumers, especially in the US, they love the bubbles, they love the caffeine, they love the taste of cola. What do they not like? They don’t like the sugar levels. And recently they don’t like the artificial sweeteners.”

“Stevia unfortunately does not work well in colas,” she added – despite an Australian launch for Pepsi NEXT with stevia last September to effect a 30% sucrose cut.

Nooyi then claimed that mid-calorie Pepsi NEXT in its US incarnation (sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame K) was “holding its own”, before promising new natural sweeteners and flavouring agents from PepsiCo to reinvigorate CSDs.

Source: Reuters,