Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo are reportedly readying their manufacturing units to replace artificial sweeteners in their beverages with an all natural sweetener called Stevia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to give thumbs up this week to Stevia, a natural plant extract which has been in use for hundreds of years already in Latin America.
Cokes enriched with Stevia, also known as sweet leaf or sugar leaf, will have all the sweetness of sugar but none of the calories or carbohydrates, and a zero glycemic index. The plant, which already has holy grail status in the industry, will likely be adopted in many fizzy drinks and other beverages if it gets approved.
Both Coca Cola and Pepsi are ready to start using the sweetener immediately, according to the AJC newspaper, which reports that when the FDA okays use of the extract both companies will begin manufacturing no calorie, Stevia-based beverages ‘within days if not hours’.
With diabetes and obesity affecting larger numbers of people, the natural sweetener is a dream come true for beverage companies on the lookout to expand market share and begin to make inroads in the rapidly rising organic product market.
Pepsi works with Whole Earth Sweetener Co., which has applied to the FDA last May for permission to use the Stevia based sweetener PureVia. And Coke’s partner Cargill filed papers with the FDA one week later for Truvia, also a Stevia extract. Both PureVia and Truvia’s main composition is rebaudioside A, which is a purified form of Stevia. The ingredient is already sold as a dietary supplement but until Pepsi and Coke applied, no company had obtained FDA approval for it to have ‘safe food ingredient’ status.
Pepsi issued a press release in which it said that SoBe Life will be the first product it’s going to roll out based on PureVia. “Consumers have always been looking for a beverage that is natural, tastes great and has no calories, and SoBe Life with PureVia answers the call,” according to the company’s CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages Massimo d’Amore. “This will have great appeal to health-conscious people who are looking for hydration and natural ingredients.”
Coke has been less forthcoming with details about which of their drinks will first be sweetened naturally, but an insider at the Atlanta based headquarters tipped off an a local publication saying that it could have a soft drink with a natural sweetener on the market by year end. Japanese and Australian beverage companies already started using the plant extract in recent years.
Stevia is good news for obvious health and environmental reasons and industry experts are almost certain that the FDA will endorse it in the next days. “If these new [Stevia-based] sweeteners pass a high taste threshold, the companies could use them to try to excite consumers with a whole new round of innovation,” an Pepsi spokesman told AJC.
People’s first reaction is of course if the sweeteners taste as good. This is where we’ll see numerous conspiracy theories rise up. Stevia has an even sweeter taste than sugar yet it has an licorice-like aftertaste if you take the plant as a whole. But insiders within Coke and Pepsi say that extracting rebaudioside A, part of the extract, provides a cleaner taste.