Coke to market first 'natural' mid-calorie cola
By Martinne Geller
(Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co announced plans on Wednesday to introduce a cola that is sweetened with sugar and naturally occurring, no-calorie sweetener stevia, the first such product to hit a market that is seen as key to the future of the soda industry.
Coca-Cola Life will have about half the calories of regular Coke. It will go on sale this week in Argentina, where Coca-Cola has 50 percent of the soda market, compared with PepsiCo Inc's 16 percent, according to industry newsletter Beverage Digest, which was first to report the news
The world's largest soda company has used stevia in 45 products, such as Vitaminwater Zero and Fanta Select, but never in its flagship cola. The move would put Atlanta-based Coke ahead of rival Pepsi in the critical race for better-tasting low-calorie beverages.
There is no date for introducing the product elsewhere. Company executives at a news conference in Buenos Aires likened the launch with the 2005 debut of Coca-Cola Zero, which was first introduced in Australia and later sold elsewhere.
DOSE OF SKEPTICISM
Consumer Edge Research analyst Bill Pecoriello said a global rollout seemed likely because it would also preempt PepsiCo's sweetener innovation.
"A healthy dose of skepticism as to the long-term success potential is warranted, given past introductions," he added.
There has been a recent wave of mid-calorie sodas such as Pepsi Next and Dr Pepper 10, but they have not maintained market share, Pecoriello said. Continued...