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By Benedict Lam
Now the soft drinks company has announced that its famous fizzy drink Sprite will be ditched and replaced with a lower-calorie version that contains stevia, a natural sweetener. It claims that the new formulation of the popular drink will contain 30 per cent fewer calories. This is the one of the latest anti-obesity drives of Coca-Cola following calls by the Government to tackle the growing issue.
The stevia plant is native to South America and has been used for centuries as a sweetener. There is a long history of its use medicinally in Paraguay and Brazil. The leaves have been traditionally used to sweeten teas and medicines. The onset of its taste is slow and lasts longer than that of sugar. Steviol is the basic building block of stevia’s sweet glycosides, and these glycoside extracts have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar.
Coca-Cola already uses stevia as a sweetener in a number of its products worldwide. For example, the French version of Sprite already contains stevia. The company said it will not be replacing the other sweeteners it already uses. And why would they? Diet Coke and Coke Zero account for 45 per cent of sales and, before I “quit” (actually, cut down significantly) caffeine, I loved the taste of Diet Coke (normal Coke is too sweet).
Other beverage companies, such as Tropicana, are also using stevia to sweeten their products while reducing the calorie and sugar content. For example, you might have recently seen advertisements for Trop50, which is also sweetened with stevia so it has fewer calories.
The food industry has had a great deal of negative publicity lately (everything from horsemeat and poo meatballs to too much sugar and hidden salt in foods), so it is encouraging to see that there are now more healthy products on the market for consumers to choose from. It may not be the answer to tackling obesity, but it is a start.