Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) is ditching its regular formula for Sprite in the United Kingdom in a bid to offer lower-calorie beverages.
In its place, the iconic American soft drink maker will offer a new version of Sprite sweetened with stevia. The new version contains 30% fewer calories compared to regular Sprite. Coca-Cola introduced stevia-sweetened Sprite in France last year, the Associated Press noted.
Facing a rising criticism from health and consumer advocates, who argue that high-calorie sugary sodas are fueling an obesity epidemic in Europe and North America, Coca-Cola is looking for a way to deflect responsibility for increasing waistlines.
Last year, it ran an anti-obesity TV ad in the U.S., reminding consumers of its low-calorie offerings and arguing that consumers are responsible for making healthy choices for themselves. The ad is set to run in the U.K.
Sprite’s zero-calorie drink, Sprite Zero will continue to be sold in Britain.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken the lead in the battle against sugary sodas, banning the sale of the high-calorie drinks in sizes larger than 16 ounces.
Shares of Coca-Cola rose fractionally in Wednesday midday trading.