Coca-Cola to launch first stevia soft drink this week?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 16th December 2008

Rumours are swirling that The Coca-Cola Company could this week release their first soft drink with stevia – the all natural sweetener that has been dubbed by some as the “holy grail” of sweeteners. Coca-Cola has declined to comment on a report that from the Wall Street Journal indicating a launch was imminent.

Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, the world’s largest soft drink makers, have stevia drinks ready to roll-out, but the news of Coca-Cola’s potential launch is notable because the food and drink regulator in the US has yet to give the green light to the ingredient.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently assessing the safety of stevia, a herb that is sweeter than sugar and has been popular in Japan, which is currently banned from sale in the United States, and many other countries. Australia’s food standards body, FSANZ, this year advised that they believed stevia was safe and the FDA is anticipated to come to the same conclusion. But they haven’t yet, which means a Coca-Cola launch could see their stevia products stripped from the shelves at the request of the FDA.

There is a school of thought, however, that the FDA may be set to provide stevia with GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) status as early this week, thus coinciding with a launch from Coca-Cola.

Pepsi, however, have made it clear that any launch will not be forthcoming until GRAS status has been given by the FDA.

Beverage companies across the world are interested in the potential of stevia. A no-calorie, natural sweetener could be the rebirth of the fledgling carbonated soft drink sector according to some, including PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. “If we got back to flat on CSDs, oh my God, it’s heaven,” Ms Nooyi told reporters at a Beverage Digest conference, according to the Associated Press. “If it continues like this, I think there’s hope the category will get new life.”

Coca-Cola has formed a partnership with ingredients firm Cargill to work on a version of the sweetener, known as Truvia. While PepsiCo has teamed with Whole Earth Sweetener to create PureVia.

Cargill launched a national marketing campaign for Truvia, its “zero calorie sweetener”, across America overnight. Whole Earth and Cargill both began selling their sweeteners earlier this year.

The Wall Street Journal claimed that Coca-Cola would release three flavours of a stevia-sweetened juice drink (Odwalla) this week. While PepsiCo is holding off on their ready-to-launch stevia products – which include three flavours of SoBe Life water and Trop 50 (an orange-flavoured juice). Coca-Cola will also launch a stevia version of Glaceau Vitaminwater next year, according to Beverage Digest.

Both companies have reported that the sweetener has worked best with citrus-flavoured soft drinks but a stevia cola, while not currently on the agenda, has not been ruled out.

“This is a potential game-changer among zero-calorie sweeteners,” Lou Imbrogno, PepsiCo’s senior vice president of Pepsi Worldwide Technical Operations, noted earlier this year. “PureVia is all natural. It’s extracted from the stevia plant leaf and not synthetically produced. We’ve got ample supply and we look forward to bringing PureVia to consumers around the world.”