Coke war drives innovation in diet drink sweetener formulations with the number one soft drinks player Coca-Cola rolling out a new aspartame and acesulfame potassium based cola onto the market, writes Lindsey Partos.
Coca-Cola North America said this week its new brand, Coca-Cola Zero, will target young adults who do not want "to compromise on taste" but who desire a drink with no calories.
The launch, set for June, follows swiftly on from the soft drink giant's roll out of a new Coca-Cola sweetened with Tate & Lyle's sucralose sourced additive Splenda.
While the ingredients industry is bumping along today at around 3 to 4 per cent growth, suppliers of sweeteners are enjoying far stronger rates, 8.3 per cent year on year as rising health concerns drive consumers towards sugar free or low calorie products.
Market analysts Freedonia predict high single digit growth of intensity sweeteners will continue until 2008.
In a strong position to spear innovation, Coca Cola and arch competitor Pepsi have identified new sweetener based formulations to assure a hefty stake in this high growth market.
Diet soft drinks claim the biggest market share for artificial sweeteners, with over 87 million consumers in the US alone. According to a 1998 survey commissioned by the Calorie Control Council, 144 million American adults consume low-calorie, sugar-free products on a regular basis.
Last month Coca-Cola announced plans to extend its line of low-calorie drinks with the Splenda sweetened Diet Coke. The new launch, complete with Splenda logo emblazoned on the can, will sit side by side with the firm's original Diet Coke, that uses the popular amino acid-based aspartame sweetener.
In pace with the competition global beverage giant PepsiCo said earlier this week it will [also] use Splenda sucralose in its reformulated Pepsi One cola to create a "full-flavour cola with only one calorie."
"We're increasing our focus on diet soft drinks this year, with the reformulation of Pepsi One as a major part of our efforts," said Katie Lacey, vice president of carbonated beverages at Pepsi-Cola North America.
All good news for the sweetener suppliers PepsiCo said it was planning an extensive marketing campaign this summer, including new products and specialised in-store merchandising, to push its entire diet soft drink range.
Japanese firm Ajinomoto, the largest fermentation firm in the world in terms of volume, is the key supplier of aspartame on global markets.
For some years now, and through a flurry of court cases, German firm Nutrinova has defended the patent for its high intensity sweetener Acesulfame K, sold under the brand name Sunett sweetener.
But the firm, part of the €4.1 billion Celanese group, has seen turnover drop as in impending expiry on a key patent looms, and competition starts to drive the price of its sweetener down.
Last year Celanese warned that pricing for Acesulfame K had fallen because of a variety of factors, including "the upcoming expiration of the European and US production patents in 2005."
In the EU, acesulfame potassium - also known as the additive E950 - gained approval in 1983. Roughly 200 times sweeter than sugar the additive currently has approval in about 90 countries worldwide, including the US since 1988.