(NaturalNews) A new company called Zevia has introduced a line of stevia-sweetened, zero-calorie carbonated soft drinks, the first such products to hit the U.S. market.
Zevia soda comes in four flavors: Cola, Orange, Root Beer and Twist (lemon-lime). It contains no calories, but everything else soda drinkers have come to expect, from carbonation to caffeine (the cola contains 45 milligrams, about as much as a Diet Coke).
Because stevia has not been approved as a sweetener by the FDA, Zevia is not technically a soft drink, but rather a nutritional supplement, even though it can be found next to sodas on the shelves of 900 stores across the United States. A label on the product reads, "A dietary supplement is not permitted to disclose the amount of calories, carbs, fat, when there is zero. For that reason, Zevia does not disclose them."
Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of a tropical American plant, and has a long history of traditional use in Brazil and Paraguay. It has been approved as a food ingredient in Japan since the 1970s.
According to Zevia co-founder Ian Eisenberg, the process of removing stevia's bitter taste and making a good-tasting soft drink was long and difficult.
"We made a lot of really, really bad soda and drank it," he said.
"There's a reason Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi don't have a lot of competition," agreed co-founder Jessica Newman. But now that the drink has been perfected and rave consumer reviews are coming in, "We are on a crusade to get people to kick the diet soda habit."
Major soft drink companies are also positioning themselves to exploit stevia's appeal as a natural, no-calorie sweetener. Cargill and Coca-Cola have already submitted a stevia product named Truvia to the FDA for approval and Coke hopes to market a stevia beverage before the end of 2008. Pepsi has introduced a stevia-based sweetener in Peru and plans to follow up with U.S. product launch this fall.
Analysts believe that both Coke and Pepsi will wait for the official FDA go-ahead before selling stevia-sweetened soft drinks.
Sources for this story include: seattlepi.nwsource.com.