Pepsi to sell drinks with new no-calorie sweetener

NEW YORK (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc PEP.N said on Thursday it will launch a new line of SoBe Life drinks with a new all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener, intensifying its long- time rivalry with Coca-Cola Co KO.N.

The new sweetener, to be called PureVia, is made from a South American shrub called stevia. The sweetener is not yet approved in the United States, and Pepsi said it will launch first in Latin America, starting with Peru.

Pepsi’s announcement comes just over a year after Coke said it was working with agribusiness giant Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] to develop a sweetener from stevia, which is approved as a food ingredient in a dozen countries, including China, Japan and Brazil.

Earlier this month, Cargill said it was beginning to roll out a tabletop version of that sweetener, under the name Truvia. A Cargill executive told Reuters earlier this month that Truvia will be used to sweeten drinks and foods -- such as yogurts, cereals and snack bars -- in early 2009.

Coke has remained tight-lipped about its plans for Truvia in beverages. Calls to Coke for comment were not immediately returned.

Pepsi said the new drink will come in pomegranate, strawberry-kiwi and orange-tangerine flavors.

Reporting by Martinne Geller, editing by Gerald E. McCormick