France is the first European country to approve a stevia sweetener under a rule allowing member states to approve ingredients for a limited two year period, before full EU approval is given.
The French decision to give the green light to 97 per cent purity rebaudioside A (Reb A) came in September, but food and drink manufacturers have been testing out potential uses of stevia for some time before that.
Coca-Cola has developed its own stevia brand called Truvia in partnership with Cargill. Late in 2008, Coca-Cola reformulated three flavours of diet Odwalla juices in the US sweetened with Truvia.
Now the multi-national soft drinks company has taken advantage of the regulatory window in France to reformulate Fanta Still with stevia.
The new Fanta Still recipe will hit shelves at the start of 2010. Adding stevia to the drink allows Coca-Cola to reduce its sugar content by around 30 per cent.
Coca-Cola said this was part of an ongoing effort to reduce sugar levels in its products. Reb A is one of the major steviol glycosides found in the leaf of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar but has no calories, making it an attractive option for manufacturers catering to the market for foods and beverages with reduced, low or no sugar.
Despite the potential of the natural sweetener, Coca-Cola does not intend to abandon the controversial sweetener aspartame, the safety of which the company said has been confirmed by European and French authorities.