Coke turns search for new sweetener into public contest
- Coca-Cola is turning to researchers and scientists outside of its company to come up with a naturally sourced, low-calorie sweetener that mimics the flavor of sugar in beverages and food, according to Food Bev Media. The winner will take home a $1 million prize in October 2018.
- This follows Coca-Cola’s announcement earlier this year that they are evolving their growth model to focus more on consumers changing tastes, with a special focus on offering beverages with limited sugar.
- James Quincey, who became CEO of Coca-Cola in May, said, “We’re seeing what consumers want and making adjustments immediately. Because at the end of the day, speed and agility are critical in this rapidly changing consumer landscape.”
Coca-Cola is looking outside the box for ways to engage the public and come up with the next great non-sugar sweetener. Food and beverage companies creating contests for consumers are nothing new. Folgers recently announced a 2017 jingle contest, with the grand prize winner taking home $25,000. Jingles are one thing. Finding a naturally sourced, low-calorie sweetener that still tastes like sugar is another.
There is a reason this is a novel idea. Most people can come up with some sort of jingle, even if it isn’t a prize winner. However, the majority of the public can’t come up with a sweetener alternative. Coca-Cola is turning to a very small subset of the population for help: researchers and scientists. This group would likely not have the vast resources Coca-Cola’s experts enjoy, but they do have the ability to come up with a solution. The question is, will the contest winning solution be one that is viable for the mass production scale Coke requires?
Even if Coca-Cola never uses the sweetener it picks as its winner, it is still a win for the company. They will get free publicity that comes along with offering a $1 million dollar prize, improved perception of transparency and a possibly brighter consumer image of the company trying to cut back on sugar. This contest practically screams, “Look at everything we’re doing to cut back on sugar! We’re asking all experts, not just our own, for help!” In an age of soda taxes, this could be a smart step in the right direction for a healthier public image.
Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple and PepsiCo have all made a commitment to reduce the number of sugary drink calories that Americans consume by 20% before 2025.
Soda sales are already on the decline as consumers reduce their sugar intake and switch to water and healthier drinks like tea. It's likely that soda taxes, including one that went into effect in Cook County, Illinois last week, are going to hurt sales even more, so it makes sense for Coca-Cola to do what it can to find ways to sweeten sales.
While this is a creative new way for a major beverage company to outsource R&D, don’t look for many competitors to follow suit unless is a success. There are countless brilliant researchers and scientists around the world, but will they have the time, resources and inclination to invest in a long shot contest like this one? In a year, Coca-Cola will find out.
- Food Bev Media Coca-Cola asks the public to help find sweetener innovations