Stevia is a clever little plant from Paraguay. Known for its intense natural sweetness and the fact that, remarkably, it doesn’t contain any kilojoules, it’s also the key to Coca-Cola with Stevia which has half the sugar of Coca-Cola Classic.
According to Bobbie Crothers, compliance and innovation manager at Coca-Cola South Pacific, the technical team’s work on the new formula has been an ongoing process. “We’re constantly looking at ways to improve our products, in recipe and taste,” she said.
“People’s needs are changing and we love finding ways to meet those needs. That’s why we continue to create new products that meet evolving tastes and preferences, particularly as people increasingly look to balance their intake of sugar,” Bobbie said.
Once stevia leaves reach their peak sweetness, they are harvested and dried.
The finished ingredient is a sweetener that can be used in combination with other sweeteners like sugar to make great-tasting low or no kilojoule beverages, a win for health-conscious consumers.
However, improvements and reformulations do not come easily. The Australian technical team is leading the world in terms of taste and product development.
“We have a team of talented people working on our recipes for drinks. Many of Coca-Cola’s family of beverages around the world use stevia as a sweetener,” she said.
“We look to Great Britain, the US, and Europe for what they have learnt.
“But this time around we are the first in the market to launch a new variation of stevia which has helped create a taste closer to Coca-Cola Classic, which our consumers know and love,” she said.
When it came to the name – Coca-Cola with Stevia - research showed that Australians are familiar with stevia as a common sweetener in food and drinks.
“We wanted to make it easier for consumers to choose the right Coke for them, the one that best suits their taste, diet, and lifestyle,” Bobbie said.
“As consumers’ tastes evolve so does our portfolio of products. That’s one of the most exciting parts of my job, to see these new products come to life,” she said.
In addition to its newest product launch, Coca-Cola is changing its products to respond to evolving consumer tastes, preferences, and concerns about kilojoules.
For example, last year the company reduced the sugar content in several of its flagship brands. Sprite is now sweetened with sugar and stevia, taking the sugar quotient from 10.1g to 8.6g per 100ml and Lift Hard Hitting Lemon now has 8.4g of sugar per 100ml (it previously had 11g).
Likewise, by offering a variety of package sizes consumers can continue to choose the right product for them.
“One thing is for certain, the innovations won’t end here,” said Bobbie, “but we will never compromise on great taste.”