‘Natural’ is the leading claim on new product labels according to the Mintel Global New Products Database, which shows that the claim was included on 23 percent of foods and beverages launched last year.
Vice president of Sprite and flavors at Coca-Cola North America Santiago Blanco said: “The introduction of this new formulation and the new look of the Fanta line are part of our ongoing efforts to reinvigorate the sparkling beverage category in the US.”
The company’s Coca-Cola and Sprite are already made using 100 percent natural flavors, the company said, and it has also pledged to switch from artificial flavors in Fanta Apple and Fanta Grapefruit by the end of this summer.
The move rides the momentum of an industry-wide trend away from all kinds of artificial ingredients, including artificial colors and sweeteners, on the back of consumer demand.
Last month, PepsiCo announced that it had replaced its artificially sweetened Light n’ Healthy orange juice drink with Trop50, naturally sweetened with Reb A stevia extract. The company is marketing the drink as having 50 percent less sugar and calories than its Tropicana Pure Premium juice, although at 50 calories per eight ounce serving it contains the same number of calories as the Light n’ Healthy version. But it is also positioning Trop50 for those who “want to avoid artificial sweeteners in their diet”.
Flavor firms have been scrambling to develop all-natural flavors to tap into the trend, particularly since the FDA granted no objection letters to stevia-derived Reb A being generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in food and beverage products in December.
With acceptance of Reb A – the high intensity sweetener hailed by many as the holy grail of sweeteners, being both zero-calorie and natural – a raft of potential producers of Reb A-sweetened beverages are looking for other natural ingredients for their products in order to qualify for the ‘all-natural’ label claim.
Achieving FDA GRAS has led to fast-track development by several companies of natural bitter blockers, sweetness enhancers and flavor maskers, to mask off-flavors sometimes associated with stevia-derived sweeteners and to enhance its sweetness profile.
Among others, Symrise has introduced ‘toolbox’ to deal with these issues, while Comax Flavors has released a natural masking flavor to mask bitterness.