The Coca-Cola Company has ditched stevia as a sweetener for Glaceau Vitaminwater in the US and will revert to the original sweetening system – which used crystalline fructose and, in some cases, cane sugar.
In an announcement on the Vitaminwater website, accessible via the brand’s Facebook page, it says: “The fans have spoken. We’re changing back to the taste you know and love.”
“We tinkered with the taste of Vitaminwater and our fans haven’t had the greatest things to say about it. So we’re changing back to the taste you know and love.”
'People love sucralose and sugar in the mainstream': Formulation expert
The boss of one beverage development company we spoke to, who has significant expertise in formulation, told BeverageDaily.com he wasn't surprised by Coke's move.
"Vitaminwater with Stevia in the mainstream grocery chains and distribution will not work...People love sucralose and sugar in mainsteam distribution. It's like comparing non-alcoholic beer to regular beer," he said.
That said, he agreed that - in the light of Coke's significant system investment behind stevia-sweetened Coca-Cola Life - cola was likely to fare better with consumer "because the carbonation plus bitterness is better tolerated".
Coke will start to manufacture old-new versions of the Glaceau Vitaminwater range this month (August), in what marks an embarrassing U-turn – it rolled-out the stevia-based version in May, although curiously the revised range still contains 120 calories per 591ml/20oz bottle, despite stevia’s zero-calorie credentials.
Glaceau backlash catches Coke off balance
“The Vitaminwater you loved will start appearing back on shelves this fall and be available across the country by the winter,” the brand added.
The strength of the backlash against Vitaminwater with stevia clearly caught Coke by surprise, and below you can read some of the negative reaction to the plant-based sweetener, not all of it especially well informed.
Interestingly, many of the posters on Glaceau Vitaminwater’s Facebook page said that the drink tasted artificial and one insists (incorrectly) that stevia extracts are not GRAS, while another lumps it in with non-natural sweeteners aspartame and sucralose. Here’s a taste of the debate…
MICHELLE MARR GOLDBLATT (July 27): ‘I am miserable and cannot remove the disgusting chemical taste of Stevia from my mouth…It certainly does not taste healthy, refreshing or anything close to the original. Please bring the original Vitamin Water back.’
SHARLEE BROOKS (July 27):“It has been a while since the new vitamin water came out. I tried it twice and that will be it for me. I still look to see if any of the old stock is on the shelves. Currently I am driving across three states in vacation and everywhere I go the shelves are flooded with vitamin water.
I have asked some ‘why so much stock since before I had a difficult time finding it at all?’ Always the same answer – the new formula is not a success.
LESLIE HEATH (July 27): “I work at Safeway and we currently have V-water for 88 cents…the shelves of the ‘new’ formula were FULL. My mgr saw me with an ‘old’ bottle and asked me if I might know why they been having so many returned recently and I told him…he was going to talk with their Coke distributor.”
LISA ROSE-MANN (July 26): “Switching to stevia was NOT a good idea. It tastes terrible and I won’t buy them. Now I will have to hunt the stores to find some without stevia in it. When they run out I guess I’ll find something else to drink.”
Cue the inevitable comparisons with New Coke, and one post does raise the question of whether the new formula wasn’t insufficiently similar to the old to bear a favorable comparison – people become set in their ways, so perhaps ‘new Glaceau’ was always destined to fail.
MARK RILEY (July 27): “I recently made a post about how much I disliked the new Revive Vitamin Water…I tried Revive again and realized it was pretty good. I then found an original formula Revive…tried it and didn’t care for it…I couldn’t believe it!”