Coke, Pepsi introduce drinks with Stevia-based artificial sweetener

Update: Don’t miss our coverage of other Stevia-sweetened beverages:

Original Story 1/1/09: The latest diet beverage war has begun with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration granting approval for use of a new artificial sweetener in soft drinks. Based on the stevia plant found in South America, rebaudioside A (also known as Reb-A) is the key ingredient in two new sweeteners being used by both Coke and Pepsi in new products.

First off is Sprite Green from Coke, which uses the Truvia brand of sweetener, the consumer name for Rebiana, which is the Reb-A version offered by a joint project between The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill.

Rolling out first in New York and Chicago, Sprite Green is a reduced calorie version of Sprite, the most recent line extension since the rebranding of Diet Sprite to Sprite Zero and the trio of short-term Remix flavored drinks (Sprite Remix Tropical, Sprite Remix Berryclear, Sprite Remix Aruba Jam). Per Coke’s press release about the new drink, Sprite Green “has 50 calories per 8.5-ounce serving and 5% lemon juice. Sprite Green was created to appeal to active young adults and will be launched in two U.S. cities this month in distinctive 8.5-ounce aluminum bottles. Initial availability will be limited to teen and young adult-oriented locations and events with a broader rollout planned for early 2009. Sprite Green complements the Sprite brand’s leading lemon-lime and zero-calorie lemon-lime sparkling beverages.”

On the flipside, Pepsi is rolling out Zero Calorie versions of SoBe LifeWater in 3 flavors: Yumberry Pomegranate, Fuji Apple Pear, and Black and Blue Berry. These drinks use the PureVia brand of the Reb-A sweetener, created by Whole Earth Sweetener Company and used by Pepsi.

Pepsi’s press release notes that “in addition to a full day’s supply of Vitamin C, each bottle of zero-calorie SoBe Lifewater also provides 20% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin E as well as 10% of the recommended daily value of Vitamins B6, B12, Niacin (B3) and Pantothenic Acid (B5.) Each also will be infused with a unique blend of herbal ingredients.” The SoBe products are going to be available nationally.

Like the abundance of Splenda-based products that came out years ago, the introduction of Stevia-based sweeteners to the marketplace is bound to prompt a new wave of drinks or at the very least, reforumalations of existing diet beverages. Right now, the hot combo seems to be Aspartame/Acesulfame potassium (as used in Coca-Cola Zero). Sucralose as a stand-alone sweetener got some press when Coke rolled out Diet Coke Sweetened with Splenda back in 2005, but other than its comob use as Sucralose/Ace-K in Diet Rite, hasn’t really been the “silver bullet” sweetener like Aspartame/Ace-K has been.

One wonders what’s going to happen with these Stevia-based drinks… or beyond that, if the public is going to be utterly confused by the zillion names associated with this new product (i.e. Stevia, rebaudioside A, Reb-A, Truvia, PureVia, etc.)

It’s going to be an interesting year in beverages!

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