Looks like our tour through the Twilight Zone isn’t quite over yet. Because I’ve got another bit of bizarre news today. One that’s almost as absurd as Wonderbread being the next breakout probiotic. And it comes courtesy of none other than Coca-Cola.
Coke has just launched a new beverage—amusingly named Coca-Cola Life—into the UK market. Is it sugar-free? Of course not. But it IS sweetened—in part—with stevia. And it’s a part of what looks to be a genuine attempt at sugar reduction.
The trial run of this new product took place last year in South America. Which is ironic considering years ago, when Pepsi was opening up a bottling plant in Brazil, the Brazilian government actually wanted them to use stevia as a sweetener. At the time, Brazil was the world’s leading producer of stevia. But Pepsi still refused. Why? Well, perhaps the fact that Monsanto was their supplier of artificial sweetener had something to do with it.
But I digress…
Honestly, I’m pretty excited about Coke’s new initiative. Because like it or not, reformulating products and reprogramming people’s taste buds is going to be a major key to making any sort of gains where public health is concerned.
After all, we only have so many options available in the face of this worldwide obesity crisis.
And since no one seems to want to regulate sugar or tax the foods making our nation fat and unhealthy, perhaps this will at least help spread the word and steer the focus away from sugar. (I just hope Coca Cola doesn’t have something else up its sleeve with this move. Unfortunately, even stevia may not be safe in their greedy clutches.)
But you know what they say. If you can’t beat ‘em… join ‘em.
I’m sure I told you this story before, but when ex-Mayor Bloomberg lost his bid to ban super-sized soft drinks in NYC, a patient of mine (who is a big executive with Coca-Cola) offered a pretty compelling reason for the failure. He told me that the legislation bottomed out because instead of working with Big Soda to improve the public health, Bloomberg opted to go around them and force their hand.
Personally, I would have done the same thing. But the ultimate fate of the soda ban does a good job of demonstrating who really has the power, doesn’t it?
So maybe we need to try to skin this cat a different way. Perhaps it is time we start sleeping with the enemy. You’ve got to start somewhere, right? And I think stevia-sweetened soda is a great FIRST step—even if it is just a baby step.
Don’t get me wrong. I still hate Coca-Cola—and I always will. Stevia or no, their products are anything but healthy. And if I had my way, they’d be flat out illegal.
But the reality is that they are a massive company with world-wide influence. And no, I don’t expect them to start using that power for good instead of profit anytime soon. But I’ll take what I can get at this point. Because if Coke can make a profit while actually doing something good, everyone wins.
It’s going to take time—a generation, at least. But stevia is a safe, plant based natural alternative to sugar. In the past, it’s been difficult for big companies to use—but that has gotten easier and easier over the years. And now it looks like it’s stevia’s time to shine.
Searby, Lynda. “Coca-Cola Life is ‘game-changer’ for sugar reduction, says policy expert.” Foodnavigator.com. 19 June 2014.