'Full-fat' Sprite to be ditched for low-calorie alternative with 'natural' sweeteners

Sugar will be replaced with Stevia as part of Coca-Cola's anti-obesity drive

The 'obey your thirst' tagline on its television commercials became one of the most recognisable advertising slogans of the Nineties. But now it seems Sprite has had to move with the times and tell its drinkers to 'obey their belt' in a new drive to target obesity.

The lemon and lime flavoured fizzy drink as we know it is to be scrapped in favour of a lower-calorie version that uses a 'natural' sweetener, its parent company Coca-Cola announced today.

The replacement drink will contain 30 per cent fewer calories and will see its 35g of sugar per can replaced with Stevia, a sweeter alternative extracted from the leaves of a Paraguayan plant.

The move comes as part of Coca Cola's anti-obesity drive following a call by the Government to address the issue. The company will also air its first anti-obesity TV ad in the UK tonight.

In a statement today, Coca-Cola said: "We are introducing Sprite with Stevia in the UK. This will contain 30 per cent fewer calories and, instead of being added as a mid-calorie addition to the Sprite range, it will completely replace the current Sprite.

"Stevia, a sweetener from natural origins, is sweeter than sugar but without the calories. 

"It is an extract from the leaf of the stevia plant which is native to Paraguay. Stevia has been used for centuries as a source of intense, natural sweetness."

Stevia is already used in the French version of Sprite, but the Coca-Cola is yet to decide whether to bring the sweetener to the US drink.

Despite a growing distrust of artificial sweeteners, some are skeptical about the natural alternative, concerned that it leaves a strong aftertaste similar to liquorice and that this will overpower the soft drink's signature flavour. Stevia is also more expensive than many commonly-used artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharine and sucralose.

Coca-Cola says its latest marketing drive will outline a variety of moves it is making to address obesity this year, such as providing more diet options.

Almost half of Coca-Cola's sales are made up of diet drinks, with Diet Coke and Coke Zero leading the way with 45 per cent of sales.

Since 2007, the company says it has reduced the calorie content of Fanta Orange by 30 per cent, Oasis by 35 per cent and Lilt by 56 per cent. It also plans to reduce calories in all of its sparkling soft drinks by five per cent by 2014.

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