Coca-Cola Co. (KO) has joined rival PepsiCo in pledging that it won't fund or conduct animal experiments.

"I want to assure you that The Coca-Cola Company does not conduct animal tests and does not directly fund animal tests on its beverages," Senior Vice President Danny Strickland wrote in a letter to PETA. A Coca-Cola representative provided a copy of the letter to FOXNews.com.

The company recently learned that research it was funding at Virginia Commonwealth University involved rats, Kari Bjorhus, a Coke representative, told FOXNews.com. The company has since yanked its funding.

Bjorhus didn't elaborate on what the rats were being used for other than to say the experiments were being conducted as part of taste-reception study. Coke is now asking all partners and research organizations to use alternatives to animal testing, according to the company letter to PETA.

The beverage giant joins rival PepsiCo Inc. (PEP), which made the same move earlier this month.

"Pepsi's announcement helped to spur Coke along," said Bruce Friedrich, a vice president of PETA.

PETA, whose campaign to change practices at Coke and Pepsi lasted about a year, said it now would target consumer products giants Altria Group (MO) and Unilever (ULVR).

"They're two of the worst abusers," Friedrich said. "We will be stepping up our pressure."

Neither Altria nor Unilever immediately returned calls seeking comment.

FOXNews.com's Erik Berte contributed to this report.