Beverage Companies Add Stevia to Soft Drinks

New York: Coca-Cola Co. has found a sweet spot for one of its biggest soft drinks. The Atlanta-based beverage giant is putting a sweetener made with stevia into Sprite in France, in its first move to use the natural zero-calorie ingredient in one of its major soft drink brands.

Coke and rival PepsiCo Inc. have invested heavily over the past several years in attempts to identify a sweetener that would allow them to reduce the calories in their biggest brands without affecting taste. Both are now using sweeteners made with the stevia plant, an herb that's popularity and demand has spawned new growing opportunities within America, specifically California, whom is home to North America's first vertically integrated stevia enterprise, Stevia First Corp. Stevia First is an agribusiness focused on industrial-scale production of stevia, the all-natural zero-calorie sweetener that is rapidly transforming the food and beverage industry.

Now, Coca-Cola will sweeten Sprite and Nestea sold in France with a mixture of Truvia (stevia sweetener) and sugar, reducing both drinks' calorie amount and sugar content by 30 percent. Coke's change follows the recent adoption in France of a tax on sugared beverages, however, the change was said to be made to meet consumer demand.

SodaStream, the company behind the popular home-based soda makers, is also launching a new line of flavors sweetened by Stevia. A dozen flavors will be offered. The initial flavors will pack fewer than five calories per serving.

Coca-Cola and Cargill Inc. developed Truvia together, winning approval from the FDA in 2008. Since then, Coke has added the sweetener to more than 30 products in seven countries. PepsiCo markets Trop50 and some other drinks sweetened with PureVia, a stevia-based sweetener from Merisant Co. Truvia has also taken off as a tabletop sweetener, and is now the No. 2 branded sugar substitute, behind Splenda.