Pepsi Goes Mid-Calorie Once More, This Time with Stevia

Pepsi True frontA leading CSD producer introduces a new sugar- and stevia-sweetened, mid-calorie soda, neatly packaged with a green label, hailing the launch as part of its commitment to “to calorie reduction and consumer choice.”

Sound familiar?

About a month after the Coca-Cola Co. brought Coke Life, a cola made with a blend of stevia and sugar to the U.S. market, Pepsi has responded with a similarly formulated product called Pepsi True. Though Coca-Cola first tested Coke Life in Argentina and later rolled out the beverage to a handful of other countries, Pepsi is diving headfirst into the American pool with its product, albeit through a non-traditional retail channel: the new cola will be sold exclusively on beginning in mid-October.

Sweetened with sugar and stevia leaf extract, Pepsi True comes in 7.5 oz. green-colored cans tagged with text on the back promoting its “Amazing Real Cola Taste,” “No High Fructose Corn Syrup” and “No Artificial Sweeteners Either.” The soda contains 60 calories per can, 30 percent less sugar than regular Pepsi. Amazon will sell the product in 24-packs.

Pepsi’s launch of True comes on the heels of a joint agreement by the three largest soda manufacturers to reach a goal of decreasing Americans’ total beverage calorie consumption by 20 percent by 2025, through the introduction of a new package sizes and low-calorie drinks.

Pepsi True 24-packThe launch of Pepsi True follows its 2012 roll-out of Pepsi Next, a cola that contains 60 calories per 12 oz. can, but unlike the company’s latest entry, contains artificial sweeteners, including sucralose and Ace K. Pepsi’s experimentation with a stevia-sweetened cola addresses consumer demand for a broad array of options, particularly seeking natural products.

“Gone are the days when consumers evaluated beverages solely on calories and taste,” PepsiCo said in a statement. “Today, a proliferation of beverage products provide consumers a wide range of choices that are driven by taste, sweeteners and calories.”

Indeed, consumers are increasingly looking beyond full-calorie, highly sweetened sodas (one need look no further that the consistent decline of CSD sales) and those made with artificial ingredients, including aspartame-infused diet sodas, in favor of natural and low- or zero calorie alternatives.

The changing winds have put soda giants on their heels and elicited a spate of innovation and new products intended to stem the tide. Earlier this year, Pepsi launched a line of naturally sweetened sodas promoted as “Made with Real Sugar,” and has partnered with Senomyx, which manufactures Sweetmyx, an ingredient designed to enhance the flavor profile of reduced-calorie foods and beverages, thus diminishing the need for added sweetening agents.

In February, Dr Pepper Snapple announced that it would begin to test market its own 60-calorie soda line, with new Dr Pepper, 7UP and Canada Dry products that are formulated with a mix of sugar and stevia and contain no artificial sweeteners.