Natural Sweeteners for Beverages – Stevia

Stevia Plant

With the growing health-conscious trend, both consumers and organizations are placing an increased emphasis on limiting the calorie content in a beverage.  First it was using cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to replace sucrose, and now it’s using natural sweeteners to replace cane sugar and HFCS.  Since stevia is the main natural sweetener used for beverages, BevWire is writing a short piece on the stevia natural sweetener.

First of all, what is stevia and why are we using it?  Stevia is a plant-based sweetener and is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.  Extracted from plant leaves, stevia in its original form is found in the western parts of North and South America.  In addition to being sweeter, stevia also contains less calories (practically zero calories) making it a great alternative to replace cane sugar, HFCS, and sucrose.   With product commercialization and increased approvals from countries, stevia is now widely used in many countries as natural sweeteners, food additives and dietary supplements.  In North America,  stevia has been approved for use by Canada (Health Canada) and the US (FDA) in consumer goods.  Some notable names consumers may have heard are Truvia, PureVia, and SweetLeaf.  Truvia is the stevia brand that Coca-Cola uses in vitaminwater 10.  PureVia is the consumer brand of stevia found in Pepsi’s Aquafina Plus 10.

With all the health benefits related to stevia, why is it not being used by more companies and products?  One reason is cost.  It is not as widely cultivated as cane sugar or HFCS, and the product is still in the early acceptance stage, therefore making it more expensive to use compared to the other products.  Also, despite the health-conscious trend, consumers are still slow to accept natural sweeteners in replacement of their current beverage options.  The Sprite Green stevia-sweetened drink is a hit and miss depending on who you ask because the taste is different from what consumers are used to.  BevWire’s readers also commented that vitaminwater zero tasted vastly different from vitaminwater10.  Once consumers accept stevia as the healthy, low calorie sweetener for their beverages, the products manufactured with stevia will grow in number quickly.

Advertisements

vitaminwater10 arrives in Canada

vitaminwater10 gogo and recoup

BevWire recently recently wrote about new vitaminwater being introduced to the Canadian market (read here) and it turns out it was true but slightly inaccurate.  It turns out that yes, there will be more vitaminwater, but now it’s in the 10-calorie per bottle format.  Same bottle, similar packaging, and promising the same great taste with less calories.  In order to bring the calorie content down to 10, these two new flavors are naturally sweetened with Truvia (a plant based sweetener).

Two flavors are entering the Canadian market – Recoup and Go Go. Recoup will be a peach-mandarin flavor, and Go Go being a mixed berry flavor.  Recoup’s side label copy – (cue: movie trailer voice guy) in a world of neurotic bosses, in-laws, dying cell phones and agonizing relationship talks, one bottle stands alone.  naturally sweetened with only 10 calories per bottle and armed with vitamins b3, b5, b6, & b12 this tasty force of hydration can help you cope with whatever life throws your way, coming to tastebuds near you. And Go Go’s side label copy – how can you possibly be reading this label right now? isn’t there a meeting that you should be in? a gym you’ve been paying for? when everyday is a marathon something’s gotta give.  fortunately, this delicious source of hydration you’re holding has some vitamins and nutrients to help motivate you towards your daily finish line.  and to sweeten – or naturally sweeten – the deal,  we made it with only 10 calories.  now hurry and go – you’re already late! These two new flavors can be found anywhere your regular vitaminwater is sold – grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, and mass merchandisers.

Is this a good time for glaceau to launch vitaminwater10?  While they are the market leader in the enhanced waters category, they are late to join the 10 calorie niche.  Aquafina Plus10 stepped into the Canadian market nearly a year ago and vitaminwater10 is only being made available?  We know that vitaminwater10 will be successful when it enters, but why take so long to come out with the innovations?  And will this mean that there will be less regular vitaminwater flavors now that there’s a 10 calorie version?

It turns out that Aquafina Plus10 has been experiencing a natural transition from the regular Aquafina Plus to the Aquafina Plus10 and also slightly growing market share.  This is likely related to a few factors: healthier perception of a lower calorie alternative, discontinuing slower moving Aquafina Plus options, and no innovations from its competitor.  Sources indicates that Aquafina Plus10 accounts for nearly half of their enhanced water sales since its launch in 2009.

That being said, vitaminwater figures that they were due for some innovation launch and should also release a lower calorie alternative to compete and regain lost market share.  However, the market can only sustain so many flavors and options for beverages – does this spell the end for some other flavor of vitaminwater? Aquafina Plus discontinued a few flavors when they launched the Plus10.  There will be a total of eleven glaceau vitaminwater and vitaminwater10 options if they do not delist something – definitely too much for the marketplace in my opinion.  That said, we have yet to see any vitaminwater10 in stores yet so either glaceau will be taking some flavors off the shelf themselves or grocery stores will do the delisting for them.

So my parting question for this week’s blog psot: if you were to discontinue one or two flavors of vitaminwater, which flavor would you choose?

Re-Energizing the Lemon-Lime Category

Advertising Age published an article last week detailing the marketing investments of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) in the lemon-line soda category (link here).  Until this was mentioned, I actually had not noticed that there really wasn’t much advertising around Sprite, Sierra Mist, and 7up in Canada.  Sprite always appeared to be advertising because of their partnership with the National Basketball Association, so it doesn’t seem like they had not advertised at all in the past few years.  No Sierra Mist advertising in Canada because of DPSG’s agreement with Pepsi, but 7up itself has not done any advertising in the last few years.  The article reports that marketing dollars for this beverage category had shrunk 80% and the money was being reallocated to other beverage categories such as enhanced waters, energy drinks, and sports drinks.

However, all this is about to change (or in Sprite’s case, has changed already).  Driven by consumer insight that clear sodas are a healthier alternative than colored sodas (untrue, by the way), all three major beverage companies are reinvesting marketing dollars into the category.  In terms of product innovation, Sprite launched Sprite Green in 2009, while Sierra Mist will introduce Sierra Mist Natural later this year for the US.  Both drinks are naturally sweetened beverages (Sprite with Truvia and Sierra Mist Natural with sugar) to keep in line with the consumer trends searching for healthier alternatives.  7up had already reformulated to contain 100% all natural flavors, removing artificial flavors and preservatives in 2006.

Sprite has also launched a global integrated marketing campaign titled “The Spark” which began with Drake’s commercial seen above.  Sprite’s marketing campaign includes a music project as well as a film project, and will be marketed through TV, out-of-home, online, and mobile media placements.  The music project gives teens the ability to mix their own music and save it as ringtones or send to their friends, while the film project encourages teens to create their own mini-film through choosing the setting, plot, characters, and ending.  All these efforts tie in with their theme to “spark” creativity and sharing it with others.

courtesy of adage.comWhat about 7up?  Since Sierra Mist cannot be sold in Canada, consumers’ lemon-lime soda options are limited to Sprite, 7up, or private label brands.  Are there any product or package innovations coming from 7up?  Advertising Age indicated that 7up will be stepping up their marketing and will be spending $25 million in these last four months, but no idea if that translates over into the Canadian market.  I’m curious to see what 7up will do because there may not be a lot of leverage to build upon these remaining 4 months.  Holidays are normally a ramp-up for beverages, but Christmas usually sees Coca-Cola and Pepsi promoting their own core brands.  And with 8 months of the year past already without much brand exposure, what will 7up be spending their $25 million on the remainder of the year?  According to Nielsen market share data, 7up held nearly 6% market share in 2009, while Sprite held less than 4% during the same time period.  Despite the US market being larger, shouldn’t 7up invest more advertising into Canada to protect and increase their market share points since there is less competition here?  If nothing is done, 7up stands to not only lose market share to Sprite, but possibly its market leader status.