Coca-Cola could launch stevia drink ahead of FDA GRAS

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Stevia, Fda

Coca-Cola is expected to launch a drink sweetened with stevia in the US this week, according to reports, but there is still no word from the FDA on GRAS status.

Coca-Cola plans to market three flavors of a juice drink in its Odwalla line that contain the sweetener, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

And if it does, the move would intensify competition with rival drinks maker PepsiCo, which has already said it is poised to launch two drinks sweetened with stevia in the US - SoBe Life Water and Trop 50.

These are ready to launch as soon as it is given the green light by the Food and Drug Administraion (FDA).

Scott Williamson, spokesman for Coca-Cola North America, declined to comment on whether it was planning to launch a stevia sweetened drink in the US this week, or if it was prepared to do so without FDA GRAS.

However he told FoodNavigator-USA.com: "As we have said, we plan to continue to innovate with multiple products using the new sweetener."

Coca-Cola has teamed up with Cargill to develop their own stevia-derived product called Truvia, while PepsiCo has partnered with the Whole Earth Sweetener Company (a subsidiary of Merisant) to produce its own brand called PureVia.

Merisant Company and Cargill have both notified the FDA that rebiana (the common name for high-purity Rebaudioside A from stevia) should have FDA GRAS (generally recognized as safe) for use in food and beverages.

The outcome is pending and although some in the industry have said they expect an FDA decision on rebiana soon, an FDA spokesman recently told FoodNavigator-USA.com that there is no specific date for completion of its review.

This is because the GRAS notification program is a voluntary program and FDA does not have a legally mandated timeframe for completing the review of a GRAS notice.

Potential market

Meanwhile stevia is already permitted for sale in the US as a dietary supplement on the basis of its low glycemic index.

Rebiana, or Reb-A, is the sweetest, purest part of the stevia leaf and reportedly about 200 times as sweet as sugar.

The US market for stevia is estimated to be worth about $60m, a figure analysts say could triple with FDA GRAS.

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