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Can natural sweeteners pull diet soda out of its funk?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Coca-Cola Life has been launched in Latin America, and will soon hit shelves in the UK and Sweden - but will it reverse the fortunes of the US carbonates market?
Coca-Cola Life has been launched in Latin America, and will soon hit shelves in the UK and Sweden - but will it reverse the fortunes of the US carbonates market?

Related tags Coconut water Soft drink Coca-cola

Is diet soda in the doldrums because shoppers are suspicious of aspartame, or because they are just bored of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi? And will naturally-sweetened products such as Coca-Cola Life restore the category’s flagging fortunes?

Meanwhile, are some artificial sweeteners (aspartame) seen as more artificial than others (sucralose) on the ingredients list?

Find out what Zevia​ boss Paddy Spence and Euromonitor's​ beverage guru Jonas Feliciano think on Wednesday July 23 at FoodNavigator-USA’s live online Beverage Entrepreneurs Forum​, where they will be joined by Paul Kilbride from coconut water​ brand Cocozia, tea-for-kids​ pioneer Melinda Hicks, Odwalla​ founder Greg Steltenpohl and artichoke water​ entrepreneur Howard Ketelson.

The FoodNavigator-USA BEVERAGE ENTREPRENEURS FORUM​ - in partnership with and sponsored by flavor ingredients & analysis expert Sigma-Aldrich​ and health ingredients expert DSM​ ​-  starts at 11.30am EDT on Weds July 23, 2014, and will explore: 

1 - How difficult is it to launch a new beverage brand?

2 - What are the hottest new trends?

3 - What’s natural? And does it matter?

4 - Who is driving innovation in the beverages market?

5 - What are the biggest challenges you face as you run your business? 

The final few minutes will be devoted to Q&A, where listeners will be able to submit questions directly to the expert panel:

Zevia cans


As Coke and Pepsi watch their diet soda sales stagnate, the arrows on the sales growth chart on Zevia CEO Paddy Spence’s wall are going in the opposite direction, with growth of his zero-calorie sodas up in the triple digits. Zevia - sweetened with stevia and monk fruit - could be a $1bn brand, reckons Spence.

Califia Farms almondmilk

GREG STELTENPOHL​ - CEO, Califia Farms​; founder, Odwalla

Odwalla founder Greg Steltenpohl went back to his entrepreneurial roots in 2010 and became CEO of non-GMO, locally sourced beverage maker Califia Farms, which was founded by the growers of Cuties brand citrus.

arty water cropped

HOWARD KETELSON, PHD - CEO, Arty Water​ (artichoke water)

Plant waters are all the rage - at least that’s what trend watchers keep telling us - but can artichoke water emulate the meteoric success of coconut water? Or is Arty Water - an intriguing mix of artichokes, mint and pandanus leaf sweetened with monk fruit and blue agave - too niche to be a hit in the ultra-competitive beverages aisle? Not surprisingly, Arty Water CEO Dr Howard Ketelson doesn't think so...


MELINDA HICKS - CEO, Big Time Tea (Little Me Tea​)

Tea is for adults, right? Wrong, says Melinda Hicks, who’s on a mission to replace the sugary juice box in your child’s lunchbox with an organic, caffeine-free tea sweetened with fruit & veg juice. Recent deals include partnerships with Nature’s Best, KeHe, and Unique Foods Marketing, which give her a nationwide presence.


PAUL KILBRIDE - VP Sales, Epicurex (COCOZIA​)  

Is recent explosive growth in the coconut water category sustainable, and is there still room for new players? Kilbride, a former Coca-Cola sales executive on a mission to turn organic coconut water COCOZIA into the next big thing in the category - is convinced the answer to both questions is YES…

Monster Energy cans

JONAS FELICIANO​- Beverages analyst, Euromonitor Intl   

Feliciano - who joined Euromonitor International in 2005 and is now the global industry analyst for beverages research - has his finger on the pulse of the beverages market. Responsible for producing articles and global reports on trends and developments in the industry on a local, regional and global level, Jonas also assists in country research of market sizes, brand and company shares, and new product developments.

The 60-minute online debate will be moderated by FoodNavigator-USA editor Elaine Watson and will be broadcast live at 11.30am EDT on Wednesday July 23.

It will also be available afterwards on demand - but only to registered delegates.


sigma-aldrich logo

The forum is sponsored by Sigma-Aldrich​, a global life sciences and technology company with a broad portfolio of flavor & fragrance ingredients plus broad nutritional and food safety analytical testing capabilities; 

DSM logo

... and DSM​, a global science based company with a broad portfolio of health ingredients for the food & beverage and dietary supplements sector from omega-3 fatty acids to green tea, oat beta-glucan, vitamins and carotenoids.


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