Sweet on Stevia
Soon after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that rebaudioside A (rebiana), derived from the stevia plant, is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use as a general purpose sweetener, several beverage makers launched drinks made with the new sweetener. PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., rolled out zero-calorie SoBe Lifewater drinks sweetened with PureVia, which is made from a highly pure extract of the stevia plant leaf.

Odwalla, Half Moon Bay, Calif., announced that its Mojito Mambo and Pomegranate Strawberry Juice drinks will be sweetened with a blend of fruit juices, organic evaporated cane juice, and Truvia, which is made from stevia leaves. Meanwhile, Odwalla’s parent company, Coca-Cola, Atlanta, Ga., launched a reduced-calorie line extension for Sprite called Sprite Green. The new drink, sweetened with Truvia, has 50 calories/8.5-oz serving and 5% lemon juice. For the initial launch in two U.S. cities, the soft drink will be packaged in distinctive 8.5-oz aluminum bottles.

A New Order for Pizza
Except for the toppings and the thickness of the crust (i.e., thin vs deep dish), pizza is pretty much the same whether you’re in New York or London. But two pizza chains in the United States are about to change things. Uno Chicago Grill, Boston, Mass., announced that following a successful market test it will offer gluten-free pizzas in its 200-plus restaurants. “Consumer reaction was so positive, and the chatter so strong on gluten-free blogs and websites, that our restaurants began receiving requests to carry the new pizza,” noted Richard Hendrie, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Uno Chicago Grill. This demand advanced the timetable for a national roll-out.

Pizza Hut, Dallas, Texas, announced that it will make its pizzas from all-natural ingredients. The new ingredients include all-natural sauce from vine-ripened tomatoes with no high-fructose corn syrup; all-natural pepperoni with no artificial preservatives, no nitrites or nitrates added; all-natural Italian sausage with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives; and 100% beef with no fillers.

Straw Delivers Added Nutrients
Nestle Healthcare Nutrition, Minnetonka, Minn., uses an innovative approach to deliver extra nutrients in a kid’s drink. Designed for children age 1–13, BOOST Kid Essentials Nutritionally Complete Drink fortifies a child’s diet with 25 essential vitamins and minerals, 7 g of muscle-building protein, key antioxidants, and 244 energy-packed calories in each 8.25-oz serving. A special drinking straw contains probiotics, which have been clinically shown to help strengthen the immune system to help keep kids healthy. “We are offering parents, for the first time, one complete drink for children that helps support a healthy immune system and fills in the nutritional gaps they may be worried about,” says Barbara McCartney, Vice President of Retail Marketing, Nestle HealthCare Nutrition. “The patented straw, which contains probiotics, is a kid-friendly way parents can bolster their children’s natural defenses and help support their healthy growth and development.” The drink is also digestion-friendly, containing no lactose or gluten. It comes in three flavors—chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.