PepsiCo jumps ahead in stevia battle


Over the past several years, Coca-Cola regularly made press
announcements about its partnership with Cargill, and their joint “Truvia”
stevia-based sweetener. The gist of those announcements boiled down to “it’s
coming,” but now Pepsi has beaten Coke to the market.

PepsiCo will release three new flavors of SoBe Life in Latin
American countries, starting with Peru. Each will be sweetened with PureVia –
Pepsi and Whole Earth Sweetener Co.’s variant on stevia – and roll into the
American market after the sweetener gains approval by the FDA for use in

Coke and Cargill’s variant awaits the same approval. Each
company will tell you their product is best, but they’re essentially the same: a
distillation of rebaudioside-A – the sweet-tasting compound in the stevia herb.
And it’s nothing new. Not even to the American market.

Stevia-based sweeteners are approved for broad use in a
dozen countries, and approved for use as a “dietary supplement” in the U.S.
Consumers can buy the sugar substitute in natural markets, and several
companies have already integrated stevia into beverages. Zevia, for one, leapt
upon this morning’s Wall Street Journal
article about PureVia as an opportunity to point out the availability of its
four-flavor line of stevia sweetened sodas.

The catch with Zevia and other stevia-sweetened brands,
though, is the Seattle-based independent can’t call their product a beverage,
or even a soda. They have to call it a dietary supplement – and dietary
supplements don’t have a great track record for appearing next to Coke and
Pepsi at your local minimart.

The expected FDA decision will change that, and enable the
top-two beverage producers to market diet beverages sweetened with stevia, but
the product may be limited by its licorice-like aftertaste.

Pepsi said citrus flavors, heavy flavors and lightly sweetened
drinks perform well with PureVia. Cola is more difficult, a PepsiCo executive
told the WSJ, but he added that doesn’t
mean the company has ruled it out.