Pepsi (PEP) is trying to steal Coke’s thunder (KO). Pepsi will be the first to launch the new-generation of calorie-free drinks that Coke (KO) has been bragging about for more than a year.
The drinks are naturally flavored with a stevia-based sweetener. Stevia is a controversial herb that the FDA has yet to approve, but both drink-makers are confident the herb is harmless. The Japanese have been ingesting stevia safely for decades, and there is no conclusive evidence that the herb is harmful in any way.
Therefore, in a few weeks, Pepsi will be launching a new enhanced water drink, SoBe Life. It’s not allowed to sell them in the US, so it will begin by experimenting in several Latin American markets, starting in Peru. Pending formal FDA approval, Coke hopes to have a stevia-sweetened soft drink in US customers’ hands by the end of the year.
There’s obviously no guarantee this new sweetener will be a success. PEP and KO will have to get rid of the licorice-like aftertaste stevia is known for, among among other obstacles. However, a natural, calorie-free, safe, and tasty sweetener would a boon to either company. Or as the Wall Street Journal puts it, the “holy grail”. No wonder the rush.