Kraft changes sweeteners in some Capri Sun products

NEW YORK, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Kraft Foods Group Inc said it was changing the formula for some of its Capri Sun drinks in response to parents’ growing demands for simpler and more natural ingredients in children’s beverages.

The company said on Tuesday that it was replacing high-fructose corn syrup with sugar in its original Capri Sun drinks, a move that reduces the number of calories in each 6-ounce pouch to 50 from 60.

In its Roarin’ Waters line, which is advertised as a “lightly fruit-flavored water beverage,” Kraft is eliminating high-fructose corn syrup and replacing the artificial sweetener sucralose with the plant-based stevia leaf extract. The amount of sugar in the product will stay the same.

Beverages aimed at kids, even those marketed as healthy, have faced scrutiny from health advocates who say sugary drinks can lead to obesity and illnesses such as diabetes.

Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said the new changes at Capri Sun would not make the drinks any healthier.

“It seems more of a response to public perceptions that sugar might be better than high-fructose corn syrup and stevia might be better than sucralose,” she said. “The scientific evidence hasn’t shown that to be the case.”

Greg Guidotti, Kraft’s senior director for ready-to-drink beverages, said in an interview that the company was responding to customers’ requests.

“What prompted us to do this is consumers were asking for it,” Guidotti said. “We saw some areas where we want to improve.”

The new formulas mark the latest changes to the Capri Sun brand.

Last year, Kraft introduced juice pouches with clear bottoms after some consumers said they found mold in the traditional silver packaging. The company also began a new marketing campaign emphasizing that the drinks contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

The market for healthy beverages for children has gotten more competitive, with both smaller entrants like True Drink Holdings Inc’s AquaBall as well as brands like Coca-Cola Co’s Honest Kids.

In 2013, Coke took out organic cane sugar from Honest Kids beverages and replaced it with organic fruit juice.

Kraft said original Capri Sun’s 10-calorie reduction per pouch would result in the removal of 25 billion calories from the marketplace annually. (Reporting by Anjali Athavaley; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)