Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sham: Can Giant Corporations Produce Seriously Healthy Products?

I read recently about a new Diet Coke product, called "Diet Coke Plus," which has a number of vitamins and minerals added to it. Later that same day, I read a story about Coke and Cargill getting together to market a new type of natural sweetener based upon the ancient plant Stevia. These items seem to be the start of a trend where some of the world's largest companies are sitting up and taking notice of the natural products industry.

This new Stevia work on the part of Coke and Cargill is really getting a lot of play because giant corporations such as these are not most people's choice for natural, healthy products.

A closer examination of Diet Coke Plus shows that it is the standard Coke product with the addition of a very small amount of nutritional supplements (B6, B12, niacin, zinc, and magnesium). These five ingredients are present in this drink at an absurdly small level, most likely due to cost. There's about a penny's worth of these ingredients in a can of Diet Coke Plus (my guess).

Is this going to mean that Coke drinkers are suddenly going to start to be a lot healthier? I don't think it will make any difference at all for most people--certainly not enough of a health difference to overcome the health cost of drinking all those artificial sweeteners. What it WILL do, however, is cause some people to grab a Diet Coke when they might have instead enjoyed something more healthy, perhaps a spring water or juice drink.

In short, it's a marketing gimmick, pure and simple.

While I wouldn't want to see Coke or Cargill start messing with Stevia (modifying the plant for patent purposes), Stevia as a sweetener could indeed be a revolutionary change in a product like Diet Coke if the sugar substitute was left in its natural state.


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