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    Coke, Pepsi to Launch Drinks with Stevia

    The beverage makers hope this natural sweetener will help boost lagging soft drink sales.

    NEW YORK -- Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. this week received U.S. regulatory clearance for natural, calorie-free sweeteners derived from the stevia plant, and both companies said they plan to launch new soft drinks with it in the coming weeks.

    The beverage makers have long searched for a natural alternative to chemical sweeteners such as Equal, Sweet'N Low and Splenda to help reinvigorate U.S. soft drink sales, which have slipped as consumers opt for other drinks viewed as healthier, Reuters reported.

    Coke, the world's largest soft-drink maker, said the sweetener it co-developed with Cargill Inc., known as Truvia, will make its U.S. debut this month in two Odwalla juice drinks and a version of its Sprite soft drink. The drinks have 50 calories per serving, which is 8.5 ounces for Sprite and eight ounces for the juices.

    Pepsi, the No. 2 soft drink maker, said it will launch zero-calorie versions of its SoBe Lifewater and "Trop 50", a light orange juice product with 50 percent less sugar and calories than regular Tropicana orange juice. Both drinks will feature PureVia, the sweetener Pepsi developed with Merisant. The new SoBe Lifewater will be on shelves as early as next week, with full distribution by mid-January. Trop 50 will make its retail debut in March, according to the Reuters report.

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