Pepsi and Coca-Cola get stevia approval, product roll-out to begin

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 18th December 2008

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), America’s food safety regulators, have reportedly given the all clear for the use of rebaudioside A (rebiana) – the sweetest part of the stevia plant.

Cargill, the ingredients company that has teamed with Coca-Cola to create their stevia sweetener (Truvia), released a statement indicating that the long awaited FDA approval had been forthcoming. PepsiCo announced they had also received approval for their version of the sweetener. The decision paves the way for PepsiCo and Coca-Cola to launch a number of stevia beverages.

“Today, Cargill received official notification from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that the agency has no objection to the conclusion of an independent expert panel which reviewed research that rebaudioside A (rebiana), the identity in Truvia rebiana, is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use as a general purpose sweetener. The FDA letter affirms and supports rebiana’s safety and the data used to make that determination,” the company advised.

Stevia*, occasionally dubbed the “holy grail” of sweeteners, is considered by some to be a potential growth driver of the fledgling carbonated soft drink sector due to the fact it is sweeter than sugar, has no calories and is all natural. It has, however, been known for a liquorice aftertaste, which Coca-Cola and Pepsi believe they have dealt with. They have advised that citrus flavoured drinks currently work best with stevia but hope that the ingredient could be used in a wider variety of beverages in the future.

Cargill has been working for five years to develop the product to specifications – in conjunction with The Coca-Cola company. Whole Earth Sweetener and PepsiCo have also been working for a number of years on their version of the ingredient -PureVia.

PepsiCo said now that it had the clearance it would be releasing three zero-calorie SoBe Lifewater flavors: Fuji Apple Pear, Black and Blue Berry; as well as Yumberry Pomegranate. The products will be in American stores before the end of the year.

The Coca-Cola Company reported that they would launch an extension of its Sprite line with the Truvia sweetener. The company said it would release “Sprite Green” in Chicago and New York this month. Initially it will only be available at youth-oriented locations and events, with a roll-out in these two cities planned for early next year. The Company had been linked to a lauch of stevia products earlier this week before approval had been forthcoming.

Other stevia beverages in the pipeline that the two companies reportedly release soon – according to the Wall Street Journal and Beverage Digest – include: three flavours of Odwalla juice drink (Coca-Cola), Glaceau Vitaminwater (Coca-Cola) and Trop 50, an orange-flavoured juice from PepsiCo.

*Stevia is a shrub in the chrysanthemum family that is native to northeastern Paraguay. First discovered by natives of Paraguay, the plant has been grown, harvested and used in South America to sweeten foods and beverages for more than 200 years. Due to the fact that there are more than 200 varieties of the stevia plant, all stevia is not the same and stevia products currently on the market vary in their production, composition, purity level and sensory or taste characteristics, Cargill noted. It has been used for decades in Japan but had not received approval from the US until yesterday. Australia’s food standards body, FSANZ, gave the ingredient the all clear earlier this year.