Coca-Cola offers $1 million prize for sugar alternative

It’s no secret that people want to avoid extra sugars, even when it comes to their favorite fizzy drinks. To keep pace with consumers who are increasingly averse to artificial sweeteners, the Coca-Cola Company is asking the public a million dollar question.

In early August, the Atlanta-based company announced the “Sweetner Challenge” on crowd sourcing platform HeroX. Through the contest, Coke is searching for “a natural, safe, reduced, low- or no-calorie compound that creates the taste sensation of sugar when used in beverages and foods,” according to the website. Further, the compound cannot contain, or be derived from, Stevia, Monk Fruit or any internationally protected species or substances. 

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If such a breakthrough sugar alternative is successfully presented, the 131-year-old beverage giant will award one winner $1 million in October 2018.

“We’re always searching for newer, better ingredients, and we know that amazing ideas can come from anywhere,” said Robert Long, Coca-Cola SVP and Chief Innovation Officer, in a statement. Though Coca-Cola is satisfied with the range of low- and no-calorie sweeteners it currently uses in its beverages, they must continue to pursue new ingredients to meet evolving tastes and lifestyles.

As soda sales continue to drop, the race is on to find low calorie substitutes.

“As we expand our portfolio, we are embracing a ‘test-and-learn’ mentality…” CEO James Quincey said in July. “We’re seeing what consumers want and making adjustments immediately. Because at the end of the day, speed and agility are critical in this rapidly changing consumer landscape.”

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If you’re not a chemistry whiz, fear not: speaking from your heart will do just fine. The company is putting an additional $100,000 up for grabs with a second contest. The “Sweet Story Challenge” asks for anecdotes on tried-and-true ways your community, culture or family has naturally sweetened food and drinks. Cheers to that!