As soda ban hearings begin, the dangers of sugar become common-knowledge and grocery stores introduce a dizzying array of sugar substitutes, it makes sense that soda companies would jump onto the healthy bandwagon. While diet drinks originally seemed like a godsend—no calories! same great taste!—the villification of artificial sweetners means that large companies like Pepsi and Coke need to find a new no-calorie drink that is free of harmful chemicals.
That’s why Coke and Pepsi are currently rushing to create the best all natural soda with no artificial sweeteners, no calories and, the biggest challenge, no strange aftertaste. While the companies have a target calorie-free sweetener in sight, making drink taste the same is posing a challenge. They’re both trying to use stevia, a sweet substance that comes from a South American shrub and is calorie-free. Unfortunately, the companies fear that stevia's slightly metallic aftertaste will turn off customers used to the taste of high-fructose corn syrup sweetened sodas.
While Pepsi and Coke are eager to get these new, healthier sodas to the market as fast as possible, the companies agree that it could take years before a suitable alternative-drink is produced. Mehmood Khan, chief science officer for Pepsi told the Associated Press that, “Every sweetener has its own notes that need to be mixed with other flavors. It's a bit like an orchestra playing music, as opposed to one instrument.” Since the drinks are in the early development stages, the companies haven’t ruled out other sweeteners, though none as of yet have large enough production to support a major-soda manufacturer like Coke or Pepsi.
Coke and Pepsi aren’t the only soda giants eager to put a healthier alternative on the market. Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc., the third largest soda distributer in America, is also working on creating a new soft drink. For those who simply can’t wait to get their no-calorie, no-artificial ingredients pop; there are a variety of smaller companies that are making stevia-sweetened colas. Zevia has an all-natural cola on the market that is currently sold in 10,500 shops nationwide. Sans-Natural Diet Soda also has a line of drinks with stevia that are available in a variety of flavors.
With all of these developments, it might be only a matter of time before drinking an extra large soda becomes (nearly) as acceptable as drinking that bottle of water.