Coca-Cola to test stevia-sweetened cola next year

  • Coca-Cola will test a cola recipe sweetened with stevia instead of sugar outside the U.S. next year.
  • Consumers are trying to reduce their sugar intake or remove it from their diets altogether.

Coca-Cola will test a cola recipe sweetened with stevia instead of sugar outside the U.S. next year.

The beverage giant already uses the natural sweetener in its Coca-Cola Life drink. Unlike that product, which is made with stevia and sugar, the new one will rely solely on the sweetener derived from the stevia leaf.

Both sugar and artificial sweeteners have come under scrutiny. Consumers are trying to reduce their intake or remove these ingredients from their diets altogether.

"Consumers looking for ways to manage sugar intake. That is the reality," Chief Growth Officer Francisco Crespo said at the company's investor day in Atlanta on Thursday.

Stevia is becoming a popular sugar alternative. Dollar sales of stevia-sweetened beverages grew 20 percent in the latest 52 weeks ended Nov. 4, according to Nielsen. As for soft drinks specifically, they grew 31.5 percent in the same period.

Despite its growing acceptance, some people can't get past stevia's bitter aftertaste. A Coca-Cola spokesperson said this recipe is "far superior" to similar products.

Cans are slated to be the classic Coca-Cola red with a strip of green at the top that reads "Stevia No Sugar." Underneath the logo sits a drawing of a stevia plant leave and the words "sweetened from a natural source 100% stevia."

CEO James Quincey told CNBC earlier Thursday that the company would continue to innovate and make bolt-on acquisitions to expand its beverage portfolio.

The company rolled out a revamped version Coke Zero of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar in the U.S. earlier this year.

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