The first Coca-Cola sweetened only with stevia has launched in New Zealand, according to a company release.
Coca-Cola Stevia No Sugar uses a specific part of the stevia leaf to provide sweetness with a clean aftertaste, the company said. The launch responds to consumer demand for products containing less sugar — as well as good taste and naturally sourced sweeteners — to eliminate what the company called trade-offs associated with choosing a lower calorie drink.
The new product is available in a wide range of formats and pack sizes in retailers nationwide, and is intended to be a permanent addition to the Coca-Cola range.
New Zealand, with its population of just 4.7 million, is a cautious starting point for the newest addition to the Coca-Cola portfolio, but should give the beverage maker a good idea of how the drink might perform in other developed markets. As in many other countries, New Zealanders have been urged to cut back on sugar consumption in the wake of rising obesity rates, and the nation drinks a relatively large amount of soda per capita.
Coca-Cola Life, sweetened with a combination of stevia and sugar for a 35% calorie reduction, is already available on the New Zealand market, as well as 29 others worldwide. However, uptake in many markets has been lackluster, with some consumers still complaining about a distinctive aftertaste associated with stevia. In the U.K., Coca-Cola Life was scrapped last June after sales slumped to less than 1% of the company’s Coca-Cola brand sales.
For Coca-Cola Stevia No Sugar, the company worked with stevia supplier PureCircle to produce sufficient quantities of its patented steviol glycoside Reb M, a sweet component found at low levels in stevia leaves with a flavor said to better mimic the taste profile of sugar. Stevia’s popularity has continued to grow, with many beverage makers favoring the most abundant sweet component Reb A because of its low price point, but suppliers have suggested that new glycosides and flavors are likely to improve its appeal.
Coca-Cola’s new product introduction in a relatively small market like New Zealand gives it time to safeguard and build its ingredient supply. The company announced the Coca-Cola Stevia No Sugar launch in November last year, and said at the time that full commercialization was likely to be a few years away because of the challenge of scaling up Reb M production.