Stevia is a clever little plant from Paraguay, known for its intense natural sweetness and the fact that, remarkably, it doesn’t contain any kilojoules.

In New Zealand it is currently used to sweeten Keri 50% Less Sugar Fruit Drink, Coca-Cola Life, Fanta Raspberry, Fanta Grape and Schweppes Duet Sparkling Raspberry.

In New Zealand, Stevia is currently used to sweeten Keri 50% Less Sugar Fruit Drink.

According to Coral Colyer, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Manager Coca-Cola South Pacific, the team’s work on the new formula has been an ongoing process.

“We’re constantly looking at ways to improve our products, in recipe and taste,” she says.

“People’s needs are changing and we love finding ways to meet those needs. That’s why we continue to create new products that meet evolving tastes and preferences, particularly as people increasingly look to balance their intake of sugar,” says Coral.

Once stevia leaves reach their peak sweetness, they are harvested and dried.

Once stevia leaves reach their peak sweetness, they are harvested and dried.

How is stevia leaf extract made?

The finished ingredient is a sweetener that can be used in combination with other sweeteners like sugar to make great-tasting low or no kilojoule beverages, a win for health-conscious consumers.

However, improvements and reformulations do not come easily. Coca-Cola’s R&D and Technical team is leading the world in terms of taste and product development.

“We have a team of talented people working on our recipes for drinks. Many of Coca-Cola’s family of beverages around the world use stevia as a sweetener,” she says.

“As consumers’ tastes evolve so does our portfolio of products. That’s one of the most exciting parts of my job, to see new products come to life.”

Quick Guide to Sugar Alternatives

And while there’s a lot of talk, stevia isn’t a new kid on the block – here’s a look at its 200 years of history.

  • Although stevia is extremely sweet – it’s 200 times more intense than sugar – the plant extract doesn’t cause tooth decay, nor does it contain any kilojoules. 
  • Stevia is already an ingredient in thousands of products all over the world including teas, soft drinks, juices, yoghurt, muesli and snack bars, baked goods, cereals, salad dressings, chewing gum, canned fruit, jam and confectionery.

  • Stevia is recognised by leading regulatory bodies as safe to enjoy. Not only have the Guaraní peoples been eating it for centuries, stevia has also been subjected to rigorous scientific testing by respected research bodies throughout the world. Numerous countries and major regulatory agencies – including the Joint FAO / WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, and the United States Food and Drug Administration – have determined highly purified stevia to be safe for human consumption.