The reformulation takes the brand down to 3.3g sugar / 100ml: escaping the UK’s sugar tax: compared to the stevia version which, at 6.6g, would have been subject to the levy (which kicks in at 5g/100ml).
The reformulation has been made as part of the brand’s refresh in the UK, which is introducing updated packaging and a new Lemon Lime and Cucumber No Sugar variant.
Sprite’s sweeteners and calorie counts vary between markets (stevia is still used in France and Australia, for example; but it is not used in Sprite in the US).
Why ditch stevia?
In 2013 Sprite became the first Coca-Cola brand in Great Britain to use stevia, with Coca-Cola reformulating the core brand to use a sugar/stevia blend. This reduced calorie content by 30%.
Now, Coca-Cola has confirmed to BeverageDaily that it has ditched the sugar and stevia combination in regular Sprite, instead using a combination of sugar, acesulfame K and aspartame to sweeten the drink.
Coca-Cola says the move has reduced calories further: the product now contains 3.3g sugar per 100ml and 14kcal per 100ml serving – 50% less than the current stevia-sweetened Sprite.
Coca-Cola says the new sweetening blend was created in order to achieve ‘the best taste in our new lower sugar recipe’.
France started using stevia in Sprite a year before the UK; and has retained the stevia recipe to date. According to nutritional information on the local website, Ireland, too, has retained the stevia recipe, although it will introduce a similar sugar tax at the same time as the UK.
Asked what the plan for Sprite is across its markets, CCEP said: “The Sprite recipe is being adapted to local market preferences across Europe”.
Per 330ml can
3.3g sugar, 14kcal
11g sugar / 46 kcal
Sugar, acesulfame K, aspartame
9g sugar, 36cal
30g sugar / 119 calories
Sugar and sweetener 960 (stevia)
6.6g sugar, 28kcal
21.8g sugar / 92 kcal
Sugar and stevia
High fructose corn syrup
* Sprite US: 140 calories and 38g sugar per 12 fl oz can (approx. 355ml)
The stevia swing-saw
Stevia has the advantage of being a natural sweetener: some 200x sweeter than sugar, and calorie free.
Sprite’s move in 2013 to use stevia in its regular version was seen as a ‘bold’ move: lowering the sugar content of its core flagship brand rather than creating portfolio of high and low calorie options (it simply provides a reduced sugar regular version and a sugar-free version).
However, stevia is not a silver bullet: it is still used with sugar to combat taste issues: meaning that, despite stevia being a zero-calorie sweetener, drinks still retain a certain amount of calories.
Coca-Cola Life, for example (a lower calorie brand which is sweetened with a stevia/sugar blend), still contains around 5.7g sugar per 100ml – meaning it would have been subject to the UK’s sugar tax (albeit in the lower band). The brand, however, was withdrawn from the UK market last year: with Coca-Cola saying it wanted to concentrate on sales of sugar-free Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.
However, it’s not all bad news for stevia. Coca-Cola Life remains on offer in 30 markets around the world; and Sprite still appears to be using stevia in other European markets. Stevia is used in some 45 Coca-Cola products worldwide.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola announced last year that it will pilot a new Coca-Cola drink sweetened solely with stevia, using a specific steviol glycoside without a bitter aftertaste, in a yet-to-be-disclosed market outside the US.