Coca-Cola Is Looking For Someone To Solve Their Sugar Problem For $1 Million

Coca-Cola has launched a "challenge" that offers money to anyone who can come up with a better replacement for sugar in soft drinks, perhaps signaling a shift to healthier products in the mass consumer market.


May 22 2019, Updated 4:22 p.m. ET

Coca-Cola is facing an issue that most soda companies are facing: People understand better that sugar may be bad for their health, so they're drinking less of it every year. In fact, Quartz reports that Coca-Cola is trying to come up with a solution to their sweetener problem by appealing to the general public. They've launched a contest looking for the inventor of the next sugar replacement. This means that now is definitely the time to look through your cupboard for ideas, but it's worth noting that their press release includes some very specific rules about what they're seeking. 

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The Coca-Cola Company Sweetener Challenge is looking for a new compound that is "a natural, safe, reduced, low- or no-calorie compound that generates the taste sensation of sugar when used in beverages and foods." It also can't be derived from Stevia or Lo Han Guo (Monk Fruit), or come from anything that is endangered or unsustainable. If you can find something workable, you will get $1 million for your invention.

Coca-Cola acknowledges that a lot of money has already been sunk into researching different ways to sweeten soft drinks that are healthier for the human body than many tablespoons full of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, but the taste isn't quite the same. Right now, Diet Coke and Coke Zero Sugar are both sweetened with aspartame, a sugar replacement that is also used in most diet Pepsi products. 

But don't move too fast. A beverage analyst at Rabobank named Ross Colbert told Quartz that if you do have something that tastes like sugar but doesn't harm people's health like sugar, it's worth a heck of a lot more than $1 million.

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“I think it’s a little cheap,” said Colbert. “I think for whoever can find it, it would be worth multiple of that.

“It tells you to what degree the pressure is to find a suitable substitute or replacement,” he continued. “This is like the quest for the Holy Grail because it has created such a headwind for carbonated soft drinks.”

With many cities considering taxes on sodas and a growing awareness of health concerns related to junk food, like diabetes and heart disease, Coca-Cola may need miracle sweetener inventors more than they need them. But if you're creative in the kitchen, this is definitely worth a shot.

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