PepsiCo Launches New Salvo in Cola Wars With Pepsi True

Stevia-Sweetened Beverage Debuts on Amazon, Goes Up Against Coke Life

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PepsiCo is answering Coke Life with its own stevia-sweetened cola called Pepsi True that will initially launch on Amazon later this month before hitting stores.

The product, first reported by Beverage Digest, will contain a mix of real sugar and stevia-leaf extract, giving it 30% less sugar than regular Pepsi. It will be sold in 24-packs of 7.5-ounce cans that will contain 60 calories each, according to a PepsiCo, spokeswoman, who confirmed the launch to Ad Age. She said the product "will go to brick-and-mortar eventually but no timeline set for that yet."

The brand plans to post the following explanation on its website later today: "Gone are the days when consumers evaluated beverages solely on calories and taste. Today, a proliferation of beverage products provide consumers a wide range of choices that are driven by taste, sweeteners and calories." The company will then list recent examples of other lower-calorie beverages it has launched, including other stevia-sweetened beverages such as Sobe Lifewater Tropicana's Trop50. "And today, PepsiCo announced it is helping consumers get back to the fun and refreshing side of cola with the U.S. launch of Pepsi True."

The launch follows the U.S. launch of Coca-Cola Life, which is sweetened with cane sugar and stevia and began hitting stores in late August.

"Coke Life and Pepsi True are similarly formulated products. Though the initial distribution is different, it proves one thing: the cola wars are far from dead," John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest said in an email.

Beverage brands have been experimenting with alternative sweeteners as their flagship full-calorie brands suffer in the face of health concerns. Traditional diet offerings, such as Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, are also under pressure as consumers shy away from ingredients such as aspartame. So-called mid-calorie sodas such as Pepsi Next use a combination of artificial sweeteners and sugar, but they have had an uneven history and have failed to break through with a large consumer base.

Stevia, which ususally comes from South American stevia plants, has the benefit of a natural image. PepsiCo recently reformulated its Sierra Mist brand with stevia.

On an earnings call last year, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi pointed to a recent plunge in diet drinks and said: "People say they don't want artificial sweeteners. They want natural sweeteners. They don't mind some calories. They want to go back to sugar in some cases."

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