Coca-Cola Co., scrambling to adapt to fast-changing consumer tastes, says its quest for a better sugar replacement is bearing fruit.
The soda giant has developed a stevia-sweetened cola that contains no sugar and zero calories. And unlike previous attempts to use the stevia leaf as a sugar substitute, it doesn’t have an aftertaste that some consumers find unpleasant, the company said during an investor event on Thursday.
The trick was removing molecules that caused the taste -- something that Coca-Cola previously masked by adding a small amount of sugar. An earlier attempt, Coca-Cola Life, is sweetened with both stevia and cane sugar and has 60 calories.
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Inc. are locked in a high-stakes contest to find more palatable alternatives to sugar. Many consumers have shunned earlier sweeteners like aspartame, and sugar itself has been blamed for contributing to the obesity epidemic. So the companies have set their sights on stevia, which is marketed as a natural, plant-based ingredient.
The new drink will launch in a smaller market overseas in the first half of next year. Its success there may determine whether Americans get their own chance to taste it.