Coca-Cola is upping its search for sugar alternatives by launching two crowdsourcing projects in a bid to uncover a new natural sweetener to use in their products.

The first of the crowdsourcing projects is the ‘Sweet Story Challenge’ and it is open to the public, while the second, named the ‘Sweetener Challenge’, is specifically targeted at researchers and scientists. Both projects will be held on the online crowdsourcing platform, HeroX.

The projects are part of Coca-Cola’s desire to formulate healthier products that resonate with today’s health-conscious consumers.

The Sweet Story Challenge invites consumers from around the world to share stories and videos about their favourite natural sweeteners in food or beverages that they have safely used in their families, cultures or communities for many years.

Coca-Cola have explicitly stated it does not want members of the public to experiment with substances that they have never consumed before, and any submissions that fail to demonstrate a history of use will be automatically disqualified due to safety concerns.

The final submission date for this challenge is September this year and up to five team or individual winners will be announced in December where they will compete for a $100,000 prize.

Meanwhile, the Sweetener Challenge looks to enlist the services of researchers and scientists to find a natural, safe, and low-calorie compound that can be used as a sweetener in food and beverages.

Experimentation is encouraged and compounds will be considered so long as there is ‘reasonable’ evidence supporting its safety for human consumption.

For this challenge, one winning team or individual will receive $1 million in October 2018, after passing a series of rounds and a 6-month long testing period.

In both projects, submissions that use Stevia or Lo Han Guo (monk fruit) will not be considered as these sweeteners are already well established within the industry.

These projects are very timely, given that the ongoing health backlash against sugar has seen The Coca Cola Company’s profits decline in recent years.

Crowdsourcing projects are generally popular ideas, with 61% of consumers globally finding the concept of products they have helped to create very or somewhat appealing, according to GlobalData’s 2016 primary consumer research.

Indeed, empowering individuals with the ability to influence new product launches or other brand-related content, such as packaging or TV commercials, engages consumers in a fun and unique way.

Crowdsourcing projects give consumers the opportunity to voice their demands, which brands can use to make more informed business decisions and ultimately gratify and connect with its fans and customer base.

However, many companies usually crowdsource simpler concepts such as flavours, names, and packaging designs, and it is much rarer to see companies crowdsource something as specific as a natural sweetener to the public.

What may prove to be difficult for Coca-Cola is the limited number of valuable submissions it receives, particularly for the Sweet Story Challenge as it is likely that the majority of sweeteners put forward will already be well known.

There is also the risk that rarer sweeteners will be located in more secluded regions that may have limited or no internet access, and hence the online project may not be able to capture the ideas from those hard-to-reach communities.

The company is encouraging consumers to share the projects on social media, and forums on HeroX have been set up to stimulate consumer and researcher ideas.

However, consumer interest has been slow so far, with only 8 forum topics and less than 300 shares for both projects, at the time of writing.

Coca-Cola are aware that the Sweetener Challenge offers more promise, justified by the greater monetary incentive and industry audience it is targeted at, but there is nothing wrong with being ambitious.

Indeed, Coca-Cola do not need lots of good ideas, it only needs one really good one to make these projects worthwhile.

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