The natural sweetener is around 200 times sweeter than sugar and has no kilojoules [calories], with Coca-Cola Stevia No Sugar containing 1.3 kilojoules per 100ml [0.5 calories].
Coca-Cola says the launch is evidence of its continued efforts to encourage people to consumer less sugar.
Addressing the aftertaste
Coca-Cola Life already uses a blend of stevia and sugar, but the challenge with stevia has always been to conquer a bitter aftertaste, which is why the sweetener is commonly blended with sugar.
Coca-Cola, however, says that by using a specific part of the stevia leaf (‘that tastes great and has a clean aftertaste’) it can use stevia as the sole sweetener in Coca-Cola Stevia No Sugar.
Coca-Cola announced its plans to develop the beverage last year but did not specify which market would pilot the new beverage. In New Zealand, Coca-Cola Life will be replaced with the new product.
Sandhya Pillay, country manager of Coca-Cola Oceania, said New Zealanders are ‘innovative by nature and low to try new things’.
“Increasingly, we are seeing Kiwis wanting to consume less sugar, so we have been working hard for a number of years to develop different drinks that suit every lifestyle and occasion that still taste great.
“Stevia is 200 times sweeter than table sugar and has no kilojoules, meaning we can use much less.”
However, George Droumev, technical director, Coca-Cola South Pacific, emphasises that people still expect the same taste from Coca-Cola.
“They want the same taste as the drinks they grew up with, but don’t want the kilojoules. There has always been some sort of trade-off. Our task was to solve all of these challenges.”
“Our team and our partners have spent almost ten years working with stevia. It was not as simple as finding a sweetener and swapping that out for sugar. It had to have a taste that people will love. Coca-Cola Stevia No Sugar is the result of thousands of hours working with the stevia plant to get the best from it.
“What is new - and a breakthrough with this beverage - is that we are using a very specific part of the stevia leaf as a sweetener that tastes great and has a clean aftertaste.”
Coca-Cola Stevia No Sugar will launch in New Zealand on Monday (May 7) in major and independent retailers nationwide. It will be available in 300ml PET bottles, 600ml PET bottles, 1.5L PET bottles, 6x250ml cans and 330ml glass bottles.
Coca-Cola and stevia
Coca-Cola Life - sweetened with a blend of stevia and sugar - was first launched in Argentina and Chile in 2013. It is now available in 30 global markets. Coca-Cola Life has 35% fewer calories than Coca-Cola classic, with 90 calories per 12 oz can (340ml) in the US.
Coca-Cola Life has since evolved in various markets: in Australia the reformulated ‘Coca-Cola with Stevia’ contains half the sugar of classic Coca-Cola; while in Greece the product launched as ‘Coca-Cola No Calories and With Sweetener from Stevia Plant’.
Coca-Cola's adoption of stevia in Life has been credited with helping propel the natural sweetener into the limelight. Other Coca-Cola products using stevia in New Zealand include Fuze Tea; while globally it is used in beverages such as Honest Tea, Sprite (in certain markets such as Australia) and Capri-Sun (UK).
Food Safety Australia New Zealand approved stevia for use in foods and as a baking ingredient in 2008.