Coca-Cola, PepsiCo to change recipes of best-selling drinks
Food and beverage behemoths Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are playing a big gamble in India by "changing" the recipes of their top-selling drinks. They would include plant-based natural sweetener "stevia" in their fizzy drinks to address concerns over high sugar-content. While Coca-Cola is "test-marketing" a low-calorie Fanta, PepsiCo is trying a reformulated 7UP. Coca-Cola may launch a new variant of Maaza with 30-50% less sugar.
Coca-Cola Global CEO's three-pronged strategy
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola India stated that the company had undertaken a three-pronged strategy as "articulated" by Coca-Cola Global CEO James Quincey. They would give consumers a much wider choice of low and no-calorie drinks with "reduced serving size, reformulation, and innovation." The spokesperson said the "work is in progress" and added they would share a comprehensive plan by 2017-end.
The growth of stevia market
Stevia is a natural sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana plant species. B2B stevia supplier PureCircle's Senior Director for South Asia, Ajay Chandran, said their business in India has been growing in double digits. He said about 14,000 products containing stevia have been launched globally. He added several companies in India are also experimenting with stevia.
7UP Revive, only drink in India with stevia
Reformulation of food products and beverages is a risky business. In 1985, Coca-Cola introduced a "new" reformulated variant of Coke, which faced consumer backlash over its taste; it was withdrawn after only three months. However, 7UP and Fanta would be the first reformulated drinks in India. Earlier, PepsiCo created "7UP Revive" hydrotonic - the only "original" drink recipe with stevia in the country.
Artificial sweeteners and health risks
To replace sugar in their products or create low/no-calorie drinks, beverage makers have been traditionally using artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Aspartame has been often criticized for the health risks it poses to consumers as well as its "sharp aftertaste". For example, Coke Zero contains aspartame; that's why it comes with a warning saying that it is "not recommended for children."
Food and beverage market in India
In India, many food and beverage companies are experimenting with stevia, instead of sugar and artificial sweeteners to hold the market; more consumers prefer "no sugar" or "low-calorie" drinks over conventional ones. Coca-Cola has been reportedly finding it difficult to hold its consumer base.