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Pepsi Ready To Switch To Plant Based Sweeteners

| Tuesday November 11th, 2008 | 7 Comments

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.


▼▼▼      7 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Jerry Taub

    What do you mean switching to “plant based sweeteners?” High Fructose Corn syrup is “plant based” already, so where’s the switch? Do you have any evidence that some stuff they derive from this plant is in any way better? All the artificial sweeteners not “plant based” too?
    HFCS is the main problem. Replacing it with plain old cane sugar would be an improvement, and far more natural!

  • Dave Shires

    What exactly are they replacing? The stuff they put in diet-soda? Or does this actually replace HFCS? If the latter, this this is huge news. If they are just moving from one quasi-natural thing to another, then this doesn’t sound like a big deal. Any time Coke or Pepsi calls something “all natural” you should be advised they are probably full of it.
    I don’t see any mention of HFCS being replaced here.

  • Ryan

    She says artificial sweeteners in the first line, which by definition mean Splenda (sucralose), Equal (aspartame), and saccharin.
    I wish HFCS would go away. We’re not so lucky, yet.

  • http://amplifiedgreen.wetpaint.com/ angelique van engelen

    hi there,
    thanks for your comments. the artificial sweeteners i referred to are those that add a calorie count to the drinks. i thought that would be obvious.
    Cheers,
    angelique

  • Anonymous

    Hey Angelique,
    The press release you linked to doesn’t really make it clear whether the stevia will replace the HFCS (calorie based sweetener) or the artificial sweeteners like aspartame (which do not contain calories):
    “Applebaum declined to say which beverages could get the new sweetener or when they could be introduced.”
    But it sounds to me like they are considering stevia for the no-cal drinks like diet coke and pepsi:
    “The stevia sweeteners follow a long list of attempts at replacing sugar with no-calorie alternatives. (Beverage companies, by the way, started using high-fructose corn syrup instead of sugar in the 1980s, but it matches sugar closely in taste and calories).
    The leading artificial sweeteners – saccharin, aspartame, sucralose and Ace-K – have failed to fully replicate sugar’s qualities, said Connie Crawley, a registered dietitian and nutrition and health specialist with the University of Georgia cooperative extension.”
    Artificial sweeteners don’t add a calorie count.

  • Dave Shires

    That’s right. The current stuff they use in diet drink already are not sugar, they don’t add calories, and they are probably “plant based”.
    I’m not saying this isn’t a significant development, just that the headline and claims made are really unclear.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll drink pretty much any kind of soft drink, but nothing beats a Coca-Cola Classic made with real Sugarcane like the ones found in Mexico for example.
    Hopefully Purevia and Truvia will be thoroughly tested by the FDA to ensure we’re not just switching one carcinogenic fizzy drink for another. There is already large speculation on whether Aspartame causes cancer in humans or not, and even a small suspicion arising with Splenda.
    The things we do to change water from bland and boring, to something sweet and refreshing. :)