ATLANTA, June 17 (UPI) -- Coca-Cola launched a new drink in Britain Tuesday called Coke Life, which the company says uses natural sugar substitute Stevia and hence has fewer calories.
Coke says the new drink reduces the sugar and calorie intake by a third, and is based on a drink that was tested first in Argentina and Chile last year. It Coca-Cola's first launch of a drink after it last unveiled Coke Zero in 2006, which is also a low-calorie drink targeted at men.
The drink with bright green branding will contain 89 calories as compared to the 139 calories that are in a standard can of Coke. The calorie reduction comes from the use of Stevia, a plant native to South America that contains a sweetening compound used to flavor the new Coke product.
Health advocates have warned against the new drink saying that despite the reduced calories the drink still contains 4 teaspoons of sugar, nearly a quarter of a child's recommended daily intake.
"Whatever the company says, this is a product with a high sugar content and it will encourage people to have a sweet tooth. Companies like Coca-Cola have no interest whatsoever in public health," said Dr. Aseem Malhotra, scientific director of Action on Sugar.
Coca-Cola is a signatory to the Unite Kingdom's controversial pledge to improve public health and pushed soda companies to reduce the average calories per liter in its range of sparkling drinks by 5 percent by the end of 2014.
"We were early signatories to the UK Government's Responsibility Deal and as we work with others across society to address the public health challenge of obesity in the UK and across Europe, we will continue to take actions that help people balance their lifestyles" said James Quincey, president of Coca‑Cola Europe in a statement.
Coke's use of Stevia comes as Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi, herself a supporter of selling low calorie products, said last year that Stevia's taste would not do well with cola drinks. But Coca-Cola seems to have found a way to use the low calorie sweetener and preserve its distinctive taste.