The New Green Coca-Cola – better or worse ?
In the UK we love the new and my children couldn’t wait to try out the new green bottled Coke Life. But….
Why has Coca-Cola brought out Coke-Life?
Coca-Cola’s press release says
“The launch of Coca-Cola Life is the latest in a series of initiatives from Coke to promote well-being and address obesity in the UK by providing consumers with beverages for every lifestyle and occasion and encouraging people to move more”
“With Coca-Cola Life, we have innovated to provide consumers with a new option with fewer calories,” said James Quincey, Coca-Cola Europe. “It complements our existing brands and is well-positioned to meet changing lifestyle trends, providing people with a great-tasting, lower calorie cola sweetened from natural sources.”
Are these claims fair ?
Will it address obesity ?
Coca Cola Life has a third less sugar and a third fewer calories than standard red Coca-Cola. A 330ml can contains 89 calories vs 139 calories in the original. But both diet Coca-Cola and Coke Zero are calorie free and although lower in calories, the new Coke Life is still sugary, one can containing 1/4 of our recommended daily sugar intake. Also the relationship between drinking sweet drinks, eating food and weight gain is complicated. There is good evidence that the type of drink you have with your meals influences the taste and desirability of the rest of the meal and can lead to an increase in the energy value of the food you eat. If the aim is to address obesity, Coke-Life is not the answer.
Is it natural ?
Coke Life’s sweetness comes from a blend of sugar and stevia leaf extract. Stevia leaf extract is sourced from the stevia plant, which is native to Paraguay, where it has been used as a sweetener for generations. The green colour and stevia leaf branding on the new Coke Life underlines the assertion that Stevia is natural and healthy. However the stevia sweetener in Coca Cola Life may not be as healthy as its colour implies. Truvia (Coca-Cola’s branded stevia product) goes through about 40 processes, many of them chemical, to the extract the sweetener from the Stevia plant and there has been some concern that some of the chemicals used are not totally removed and may be harmful. Stevia Sweeteners are highly processed.
As I discussed in my post “Sugar – What you need to know” in February, the sweetness of sweeteners varies markedly. A sweetener made from stevia is up to 200 times sweeter than table sugar and it is its extreme sweetness that has allowed Coca-Cola to lower the sugar content without compromising the sweet taste. Stevia has a slightly different, thicker mouth feel and can leave an after taste, which is possibly why Coca-Cola has combined it with sugar rather than using it in its sugar free brands. The jury is out on how natural any fizzy drink can claim to be.
Does it increase consumer choice?
I would argue yes. I would argue that there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that artificial sweeteners are not only counterproductive, but they may also be harmful. There is no evidence that the bodies internal systems can detect the calorie content of foods and there is a growing weight of evidence that perhaps how sweet something is is what is important. If you would like more detail on the science please email me but studies have linked drinking diet drinks to weight gain and increased diabetes risk and tasting but not eating sweet things has been shown to increased blood sugar and short term performance. Although the science is not really there yet, I think there is a chance that eating sweet things, with no energy value, totally confuses the internal systems that have carefully evolved over many centuries to assess the calorie / energy value of what we are eating by its taste and smell. I also think that there is growing disquiet about the safety of artificial sweeteners, particularly the aspartame used in Diet Coke and there are questions about the long term effects of eating or drinking the high fructose corn syrups found in regular Coca Cola (see Sugar – what you need to know).
Does it “encourage people to move more”
Um………… I see the press statement above but I can’t think of any reason why it would….
If you want to drink Coca Cola, the new green Coke Life does increase your choice. At 89 calories a can it is not low calorie or sugar free but it may well be healthier than drinking coke laced with artificial sweeteners. I would also argue that the ‘fuller mouth feel’ is reminiscent of how coke used to taste back when it came in glass bottles and it maybe preferred by some people.
But is it good for you ? ………… NO.