Zevia CEO Paddy Spence stands in front of an ad from the company's new campaign in the New York City subway system. Zevia says it's now distributed in 42 percent of conventional supermarkets and specialty chains, including Kroger and Whole Foods. (Jason Decrow / AP)
Can natural sweeteners that taste good rescue diet sodas from their decline?
Americans have been cutting back on soda for years in part because of fears over weight gain. But the pullback on diet soda is a relatively newer phenomenon.
Big soda makers Coke and Pepsi blame the slowdown on peopleís concerns over the safety of artificial sweeteners that are used in diet soda. The two beverage makers say theyíre working on creating sodas that use natural sweeteners, but itís difficult to create a diet soda using natural sweeteners, which can leave a bitter aftertaste.
Zevia, a small Los Angeles-based company, already makes zero-calorie sodas sweetened primarily with stevia, which is derived from a South American plant
Hereís what Zevia CEO Paddy Spence had to say about the soda industry:
Isnít taste an issue for Zevia?
A zero-calorie product by its nature is going to have a different taste. But what weíve been trying to do is narrow the gap. And I think with the new iteration on the sweetener system, weíve really cracked the code.
One concern in the industry is that people are cutting back on soda, even if theyíre not quitting. Are there people who drink several cans of Zevia a day?
Our customers donít perceive a consumption ceiling. Itís a guilt-free option. Itís very easy for people to consume a lot of our product. Our heavy users account for a huge portion of our sales. The top third of our consumers are spending over $200 a year on Zevia.
How many cans a day does that mean?
If you were to buy it at the most expensive retail price, that would be on average a can every other day.
People have so many different beverage choices now ó sparking and flavored waters, etc. Is there even a demand at this point for a naturally sweetened diet soda?
Tap water has been a dominant beverage for hundreds of years. From a health perspective itís the ultimate solution. Yet people crave sweet drinks. Thatís just the bottom line.
I donít see Americans or global consumers getting away from soda, quite frankly.
Whatís the difference between soda and flavored, sweetened sparkling water?
The dirty secret is that there is no difference.