Coca-Cola announced its plans to launch a healthier stevia-sweetened drink with a third less sugar and calories than its regular cola as part of government and industry-wide efforts to tackle obesity.
Coca-Cola said that the new drink was part of its commitments to offer consumers reduced, low and no-calorie options – adding that it was the “most recent example in a series of initiatives by the company to inspire happier, healthier lives.”
The company is a signatory to the Government’s Responsibility Deal, under which the food and drink industry has pledged to promote and healthier diet and make changes to their products, and Coca-Cola has committed to reduce the average calories per liter in its range of sparkling drinks by 5 per cent by the end of 2014.
Coca-Cola Life will go on sale in Britain in September after debuting in Argentina and Chile, making it the first new Coca-Cola since Zero was launched in 2006.
Coca-Cola Europe president James Quincey said: “We are pleased to add Coca-Cola Life to the Coca-Cola portfolio in the UK. It complements our existing brands and is well-positioned to meet changing lifestyle trends, providing people with a great-tasting, lower calorie cola sweetened from natural sources.
“With Coca-Cola Life, we have innovated to provide consumers with a new option with fewer calories. We were early signatories to the UK Government’s Responsibility Deal and as we work with others across society to address the public health challenge of obesity in the UK and across Europe, we will continue to take actions that help people balance their lifestyles.”
A 330ml can of Coca-Cola Life contains only 89 calories, in comparison to a standard one with 139 calories, and 22.1 grams of sugar – 25 per cent of an adult’s guideline daily amount. All because the new Cola is sweetened with a blend of sugar and natural extract from the stevia plant, which is already used in the company’s Sprite and Glacéau vitamin water, as well as by other manufacturers.
In the U.S., however, stevia met some controversy regarding the health risks, but purified stevia extracts, which is the type used by Coca-Cola, have been cleared. Stevia, which is grown and harvested in South American, has zero calories, as well as zero carbohydrates and zero GI (glycemic index), and is often used by people with diabetes or hyperglycemia.
Other than introducing stevia extract to Sprite, it has launched smaller 250ml cans across the Coca-Cola portfolio and recently announced a £20 million anti-obesity fitness drive in 70 parks in Britain.
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum and an adviser to Action on Sugar, said: “Coca-Cola’s direction of travel should be applauded. Purists will inevitably decry the fact that two important features of the new brand – less sugar and less calories – haven’t been bettered but it is reasonable that a third less in both is not insignificant.
“The trick that Coca-Cola has missed is significantly to reduce the price. That must happen if people are to believe that Coca-Cola’s heart really is in making it easier to buy a healthier brand and not just maintaining its profit levels.”