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Pepsi is embracing stevia-leaf extract with a new soda called True, but you won't find it at your local grocery store. Curious beverage fans will have to buy it on Amazon.
Pepsi hopes Amazon customers will become True fans. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET
Perhaps it all started with Surge. The iconic '90s sugar-bomb soda from Coca-Cola is enjoying a revival by being offered on Amazon, where it keeps selling out. Now rival Pepsi is hopping onto the e-commerce soft-drink train by introducing a new product, Pepsi True, with an exclusive launch through the online retailer.
True is one of Pepsi's shots at appealing to calorie and corn-syrup-conscious consumers. It's partially sweetened with stevia, a leaf extract. While the green cans and proclamation of "no artificial sweeteners" are meant to attract soda fans on a health kick, the ingredients still show sugar right behind carbonated water near the top of the list.
Pepsi isn't hiding the sugar content, but it is emphasizing that True has 30 percent fewer calories than regular Pepsi. A 7.5-ounce can has 60 calories. It will be sold in packs of 24 of these mini-cans and will be available on Amazon in mid-October, though pricing hasn't been given yet. Like Surge, it will likely be available for free shipping through Amazon Prime.
The sugar and stevia combination is a bit of a mixed message, but Pepsi is taking very little risk by launching the product on Amazon only. It doesn't have to foot the bill for wide distribution to physical stores across the country or a traditional advertising campaign. A YouTube video introducing the soda shows stevia leaves and bouncy people wearing flannel and backpacks in the wilderness. If the soda catches on, Pepsi always has the option to move it into bricks-and-mortar retail stores.
The Amazon product page is already up, so that means reviewers are chiming in before the soda even becomes available. Some are already complaining about the presence of sugar in the mix instead of just Stevia, while others are taking negative reviewers to task for giving feedback on a product they haven't tasted.
It will be interesting to see if the eventual reviews of True reach the amusing heights of those for Surge. It will be hard for Pepsi to top a happy customer declaring "The Steve Perry of soda is back" in joy at Surge's resurrection.Amanda Kooser Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET's Crave blog. When not wallowing in weird gadgets and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto. See full bio