In 2018, Coke tested their Coca-Cola Stevia No Sugar product in New Zealand to see how this beverage would succeed in the market before launching it in other countries. But where is the beverage now?
Is Coke Stevia Still Available?
Coke with stevia was distributed worldwide until it slowly started losing sales and has now been discontinued and removed from The Coca-Cola Company’s product portfolio.
The product was test-launched amidst a shift in consumer behavior away from the regular consumption of sugary drinks, and soda companies began to see their product sales drop. In this regard, The Coca-Cola Company decided to release Coke with stevia to gain the interests of those consumers.
Those involved in product development for the company were concerned with how the drink would taste because stevia-sweetened beverages tend to have a bitter aftertaste. However, they solved this problem by making use of Reb M glycoside, a sugar found in low concentrations in the stevia plant, to develop the sweetener used in Coke with stevia. The refined version of this steviol glycoside retains the intense sweetness of stevia extract without giving consumers that unpleasant aftertaste.
“Our team and our partners have spent almost ten years working with stevia, a sugar alternative from a natural source – the stevia plant. It was not as simple as finding a sweetener and swapping that out for sugar. It had to have a taste that people will love. Coca-Cola Stevia No Sugar is the result of thousands of hours working with the stevia plant to get the best from it,” said George Droumev, Technical Director of Coca-Cola South Pacific, in a statement about their 2018 launch.
Coca-Cola Life Versus Coca-Cola with Stevia
This drink, Coca-Cola Stevia, is not to be confused with Coca-Cola Life, another drink sweetened with stevia leaf extract. Coca-Cola Life has fewer calories than regular Coke and contains stevia and sugar. Coca-Cola Life was first introduced in Argentina and Chile. But after the beverage’s market performance was reviewed, Coca-Cola decided to phase-out Coca-Cola Life and rebranded it as Coca-Cola with Stevia and eliminated the sugar.
In the UK, less than three years after Coca-Cola Life was introduced, the product was discontinued because sales dropped 73.1 percent compared to Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which skyrocketed in sales by 81.2 percent during the same period.
One of the main reasons that Coca-Cola Life was rebranded and called Coca-Cola with Stevia is because research suggested that people were familiar with stevia as a sweetener. Therefore, they wanted to make it easier for consumers to choose a comfortable brand from the wide array of soda options available in the market.
In 2020, The Coca-Cola Company discontinued a few underperforming brands, including Coca-Cola Life, Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, regional grape drink Delaware Punch and 200 other beverages.
Coca-Cola has decided to discontinue certain brands so it can make sure it’s investing in drinks “with the strongest potential to grow their consumer bases, increase frequency, and drive system margins,” said CEO James Quincey during an analyst call in 2020.
Coke Zero is another Coca-Cola beverage that has been confused with Coke with stevia because it caters to the same consumer market. Coke Zero is sugar-free, calorie-free and is very similar in taste to the Coca-Cola Classic. However, Coke Zero uses aspartame and acesulfame potassium as sugar substitutes in the beverage instead of stevia extract.
Where the Stevia Market is Headed
According to Emergen Research, the stevia market is only going to increase in the next few years. In 2019, the global stevia market was worth $595.8 million, but it’s expected to grow to $1.2 billion by 2027.
The market is growing because of the awareness of sugar’s adverse effects on consumer health. Sugar can cause obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and more. In light of this, consumers are looking for sugar alternatives.
Now, the question is, did The Coca-Cola Company make the wrong decision by discontinuing Coke with stevia before it had the chance to compete in this growing market?