Americans love Coca-Cola. A lot.
Business Insider reports that Americans consume 1.7 million tons, roughly 10.8 pounds per person, of sugar per year from Coke.
Naturally, there have been many of variations of a “healthier” Coke over the years: Coca-Cola Zero and Diet Coca-Cola are mainstays, and there was even something called Coca-Cola C2 in 2004 following the low-carb trend. (It didn’t last.)
In its latest experiment with a healthier Coke, Coca-Cola has announced a new option, “Coca-Cola Life,” which will be released in the U.K. this fall. We’re interested to see whether it will make its way across the pond to the US or not.
What’s special about the new carbonated drink?
Besides its nifty green can, Coca-Cola Life is stevia-sweetened and at 89 calories per can, it has 51 less calories than regular Coke, which contains 140 calories per can.
The drink was piloted in Argentina and Chile in 2013, and is the first new Coke to be launched in Great Britain in eight years.
The launch is designed to drive incremental growth in the soft drinks category by appealing to 35-55 year old consumers that are looking for a lower calorie cola with sweetness from natural sources.
A blend of sugar and stevia, which National Geographic describes as a “virtually calorie-free sweetener” derived from a plant in the Chrysanthemum family, are the “natural sources” Coca-Cola says will sweeten the new beverage.
Besides the potential economic gains, there are other reasons Coca-Cola might have felt pressure to create a new soda:
Diet Coke and Coke Zero, which contain the sweetener aspartame, have come under fire for the sweetener being linked to cancer in animal studies and for causing stomachaches, though it has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
But is stevia actually healthier?
It seems like the FDA isn’t really sure yet.
Mother Jones reports that in the 1990s, “the FDA rejected Stevia as a food ingredient after research linked it to reproductive problems and possible genetic mutations in rats.”
In 2008, however, the FDA approved a specific formula of pure Stevia called Rebaudioside A. (The stuff you see in Truvia and PureVia). But they recommend that adults don’t consume more than 1.3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, or roughly 29 Truvia packets.
Coke’s website states that “this is the first time” that stevia leaf extract has been used in one of their products.