Industry News | July 31, 2008

Pepsi to Debut Stevia-Sweetened Drink

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PepsiCo and Whole Earth Sweetener Company are partnering to introduce a zero-calorie, all-natural sweetener from the stevia plant. PureVia will debut in three SoBe Life beverage flavors and launch in Latin America, starting with Peru.

PureVia tabletop sweetener will hit in the U.S. this fall before expanding into drink and food products around the world. PureVia will be available initially in Tropical Pomegranate, Strawberry-Kiwi, and Orange-Tangerine flavors.

"This will have great appeal to health-conscious people who are looking for hydration and natural ingredients," says Massimo d'Amore, CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages.

In May, Whole Earth Sweetener Company, a subsidiary of Merisant Company focused solely on natural products, submitted a notification and supporting scientific data to the FDA that the ingredient is generally recognized as safe for use in beverages, foods, and tabletop sweeteners. PepsiCo intends to market PureVia in beverages and foods and Whole Earth Sweetener Company will market the brand as a tabletop sweetener.

"The introduction of PureVia represents the culmination of four years of research and development," says Paul Block, CEO of Merisant and Whole Earth Sweetener Company. "What's unique about PureVia is that we've identified a way to extract the purest part of the stevia leaf to reveal the cleanest and most consistent taste."

"This is a potential game-changer among zero-calorie sweeteners," says Lou Imbrogno, PepsiCo's senior vice president of Pepsi Worldwide Technical Operations. "PureVia is all natural. It's extracted from the stevia plant leaf and not synthetically produced."

As a tabletop sweetener, all-natural, zero-calorie PureVia can be used in place of sugar in both hot and cold beverages, as well as sprinkled on cereal and fruit. It will be available for purchase at food and grocery stores across the U.S. and at PureVia.com later this fall in 40-stick cartons.

The active sweetener in PureVia is Reb A, an all-natural, purified component of the South American stevia plant--long known for its extraordinary sweetness. Stevia is approximately 200 times as sweet as sugar, and Reb A is the sweetest, purest part of the stevia leaf. Other forms of stevia are sold in the U.S. as dietary supplements and have been used for years by consumers in countries such as Brazil, Japan, and South Korea. "PureVia is sweetened with a purified extract of the stevia plant," said Sergio Machado, director of research and development for Whole Earth Sweetener Company. "After the stevia leaves are milled, a freshwater brewing method is used to unlock the natural sweeteners, including the best-tasting extract of the plant -- Reb A. This extract is then purified further until a very high purity Reb A is obtained." PepsiCo and Whole Earth Sweetener Company have formed an unprecedented partnership through which they will jointly own and market PureVia(TM) globally. The two companies have agreed to buy the natural sweetener from PureCircle, a leading supplier of pure Reb A, which also will have the exclusive license to market Reb A under the PureVia(TM) brand in certain categories.