Sprite reduces sugar but ditches stevia, citing best taste for lower sugar UK recipe

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sprite's new branding in the UK - sans stevia
Sprite's new branding in the UK - sans stevia
Coca-Cola’s Sprite brand has further reduced sugar and calories in the UK as part of a brand refresh: but has ditched stevia, turning away from its 2013 decision to use the natural sweetener.

The reformulation takes the brand down to 3.3g sugar / 100ml: escaping the UK’s sugar tax:​ compared to the stevia version which, at 6.6g, would have been subject to the levy (which kicks in at 5g/100ml).

The reformulation has been made as part of the brand’s refresh​ in the UK, which is introducing updated packaging and a new Lemon Lime and Cucumber No Sugar variant.

Sprite’s sweeteners and calorie counts vary between markets (stevia is still used in France and Australia, for example; but it is not used in Sprite in the US).

Why ditch stevia?

In 2013 Sprite became the first Coca-Cola brand in Great Britain to use stevia, with Coca-Cola reformulating the core brand​ to use a sugar/stevia blend. This reduced calorie content by 30%.

Now, Coca-Cola has confirmed to BeverageDaily that it has ditched the sugar and stevia combination in regular Sprite, instead using a combination of sugar, acesulfame K and aspartame​ to sweeten the drink.

Coca-Cola says the move has reduced calories further: the product now contains 3.3g sugar per 100ml and 14kcal per 100ml serving – 50% less than the current stevia-sweetened Sprite.

Coca-Cola says the new sweetening blend was created in order to achieve ‘the best taste in our new lower sugar recipe’.

France started using stevia in Sprite a year before the UK; and has retained the stevia recipe to date. According to nutritional information on the local website, Ireland, too, has retained the stevia recipe, although it will introduce a similar sugar tax at the same time as the UK.

Asked what the plan for Sprite is across its markets, CCEP said: “The Sprite recipe is being adapted to local market preferences across Europe”.

 

Per 100ml

Per 330ml can

Sweeteners

Sprite UK

3.3g sugar, 14kcal

11g sugar / 46 kcal

Sugar, acesulfame K, aspartame

Sprite Australia

9g sugar, 36cal

30g sugar / 119 calories

Sugar and sweetener 960 (stevia)

Sprite France

6.6g sugar, 28kcal

21.8g sugar / 92 kcal

Sugar and stevia

Sprite US

*

*

High fructose corn syrup

* Sprite US: 140 calories and 38g sugar per 12 fl oz can (approx. 355ml)

The stevia swing-saw

Stevia has the advantage of being a natural sweetener: some 200x sweeter than sugar, and calorie free.

Sprite’s move in 2013 to use stevia in its regular version was seen as a ‘bold’​ move: lowering the sugar content of its core flagship brand rather than creating portfolio of high and low calorie options (it simply provides a reduced sugar regular version and a sugar-free version). 

However, stevia is not a silver bullet: it is still used with sugar to combat taste issues: meaning that, despite stevia being a zero-calorie sweetener, drinks still retain a certain amount of calories.

Coca-Cola Life, for example (a lower calorie brand which is sweetened with a stevia/sugar blend), still contains around 5.7g sugar per 100ml – meaning it would have been subject to the UK’s sugar tax (albeit in the lower band). The brand, however, was withdrawn from the UK market​ last year: with Coca-Cola saying it wanted to concentrate on sales of sugar-free Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.

However, it’s not all bad news for stevia. Coca-Cola Life remains on offer in 30 markets around the world; and Sprite still appears to be using stevia in other European markets. Stevia is used in some 45 Coca-Cola products worldwide.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola announced last year that it will pilot a new Coca-Cola drink sweetened solely​ with stevia,​ using a specific steviol glycoside without a bitter aftertaste, in a yet-to-be-disclosed market outside the US.

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