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The New Wave Of Sweeteners For CSDs

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Consumers are paying more attention to the health effects of their food and beverages, including the sweeteners used in carbonated soft drinks (CSDs).


The notorious fame of aspartame


Aspartame is the most common artificial sweetener, and sure enough, it is the leading ingredient discussed by consumers. However, that’s not a distinction to be proud of. There have been almost twice as many negative mentions as positive ones, due to aspartame’s reputation for causing weight gain, tooth decay, cancer, and other ill-effects. Companies have long been searching for alternatives to aspartame to combat it’s negative name although it is been proven safe for consumption.


Consumer trends around ingredients – CSD and Energy Drinks

(US Data Mar. 2017 - Feb. 2019)


Signals Playbook™ Insights


Alternative sweeteners for CSDs


Ever since the debate around artificial sweeteners has dominated the public discourse, consumers have been on the lookout for more natural ways to sweeten their soft drinks. Honey is one of the leaders of consumer discussion in this arena, followed by Stevia. Honey falls only slightly behind aspartame with a drop of 3% in consumer discussion, but it has a much more positive association amongst consumers.


Consumer trends around ingredients – CSD and Energy Drinks

(US Data Mar. 2017 - Feb. 2019)


Signals Playbook™ Insights


Sweet innovation for CSDs


Innovation around natural sweeteners is on the rise, following a clear increase in consumer demand. The number of patents relating to Stevia and honey in CSDs has jumped over the last four years. It is worth noting that twice as many patents have been filed for Stevia as for honey, even though consumer interest in honey exceeds that for Stevia. It seems that there’s a significant gap in the market for drinks that are sweetened with natural sweeteners, specifically honey.


Innovation trends around ingredients – CSD and Energy Drinks

(US Data Q2. 2014 – Q4. 2018)


Signals Playbook™ Insights




Some leading market players like Coca-Cola and Virgil’s have already tapped into the Stevia trend, yet the Stevia-CSD market is dominated by a single emerging brand: Zevia. Zevia offers ready-to-drink CSDs sweetened with only Stevia, without any other artificial sweeteners. Recent development efforts are focused on improving the strong after taste, highly associated with Stevia.


Leading competitors addressing consumer needs – Stevia

(US Data Mar. 2017 - Feb. 2019)


Signals Playbook™ Insights


"Zevia produces the best-tasting, naturally sweetened soda. This stevia sweetened soda is the naturally sweetened pop you and your family will crave"






Even though honey leads positive consumer discussion about natural sweeteners for CSDs, it’s still hanging under the radar in terms of market share. Only a small number of niche brands like Sprecher, Rainbow Flavors, and Reed’s offer soft drinks sweetened with raw honey.


Leading competitors addressing consumer needs – Honey

(US Data Mar. 2017 - Feb. 2019)


Signals Playbook™ Insights


"Sprecher cherry cola is a masterful blend of Wisconsin's own Door County cherry juice, raw honey, the finest cola extract, and a handful of select spices cooked to perfection"




The outlook is sweet for naturally-sweetened CSDs


Given the rise in consumer demand and initial offerings from emerging brands, we can expect to see a greatly expanded product offering in the realm of naturally sweetened CSDs taking over a significant market share from artificially sweetened products. This is especially true when it comes to CSDs sweetened with honey, where there’s a notable gap between consumer demand and current offering in the product space.


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Written by Gal Erez

CPG/F&B Business Consultant at Signals Analytics

Gal has vast experience in market analysis, strategy and marketing which she gained working for one of Israel's biggest F&B companies. At Signals Analytics, she works across various industries, including CSD and Energy Drinks, Dry and Frozen Foods.



Media inquiries

Chris Thatcher
5W Public Relations 646-430-5161
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