In the name of good health, fewer people are drinking soda — both to decrease their sugar intake and to avoid the artificial sweeteners found in diet drinks. Now Coca-Cola is reaching out to fans for help. The company has launched a “Sweetener Challenge” in hopes of finding a “natural, safe, reduced, low-or no-calorie compound that generates the taste sensation of sugar when used in beverages and foods.” The grand prize winner will receive $1 million in October 2018.
Paul Breslin, a professor in the nutritional sciences department at Rutgers University, told NPR that, considering the ties sugar has with obesity and Type 2 diabetes, there’s long been a strong focus on finding replacements. “The search for [alternative sweeteners] is actually an old idea,”he explained.
Diet sodas have been in wide distribution since the 1960s, but artificial sweeteners have raised concerns ranging from safety to taste. “Our love for sugar … pre-dates our species — to when we last shared a common ancestor with chimps and apes,” Breslin told NPR, noting that when it comes to sugar, it may be quite hard to trick our taste buds. “When something doesn’t match the profile of sugar, you don’t even know why, you can’t give voice to it. You just know something’s off about it.”
Robert Long, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Coca-Cola, said in statement that the company is pleased with the array of low- and no-calorie sweeteners they’ve already implemented in drinks, such as stevia. The new campaign supports the company’s commitment to keep up with consumers’ evolving tastes. “We’re always searching for newer, better ingredients, and we know that amazing ideas can come from anywhere,” he said.
To participate in Coca-Cola’s Sweetener Challenge, just register through the challenge's crowdsourcing page and submit your entry by 5 p.m. on January 28, 2018. You may just find yourself $1 million richer. Now that’s pretty sweet. For the most popular soda from the year you were born, click here.