The Coca-Cola Company Sweet Story Challenge

The search to fill a growing demand for a plant-based natural sweetener that has few or no calories. Read Overview...
Don't forget to check out the Sweetener Challenge

“Food is powerfully symbolic and really complex. Through food we express love. We bring comfort and hope. We forge new relationships and strengthen old bonds. Food reaffirms not only our humanity but the joy of being alive.” -- Marcus Samuelsson


Food ignites our senses. Every living thing needs food to survive, but for most of us, food has a deeper, more complex significance.


When we explore the history and cultural significance of sweet food, we discover why sweetness is important to so many people. Cultivation of the sugar cane plant goes back thousands of years and can be traced to Southeast Asia, with the manufacture of sugar cane granules from sugar cane juice taking place in India two thousand years ago. Cultures around the world use sweets for a variety of purposes, including marking important rituals, celebrations, and life events.


The history of the wedding cake extends centuries, the addition of sweet to savory foods is not uncommon in many communities, and sweet tea evokes memories of rocking chairs on a porch. No matter the difference in preparation, ingredients, and texture, we all seem to find a bit of home in a sweet beverage or a local specialty.


Why Issue a Challenge? 

At The Coca-Cola Company, we are constantly innovating and refreshing our portfolio to meet the consumer’s tastes and lifestyles. And we know that amazing ideas can come from anywhere. 


The Challenge Breakthrough

The Coca-Cola Company Sweet Story Challenge is looking for your stories of the sweet in your life. More specifically, we are eager to learn about tried and true methods to naturally sweeten food or drink, or how your community, culture, or family has done so safely for many years.


What Can You Do Right Now?

  • Read the complete challenge guidelines to see the rules and requirements for entry into the challenge.
  • “Accept Challenge” by clicking the orange button above to compete in the challenge. 
  • Follow the challenge above to be notified of any status updates to the challenge.
  • Share this challenge on social media using the icons above. Show your friends, your family, or anyone you know who has a passion for discovery.
  • Start a conversation in our Forum to join the conversation, ask questions or connect with other innovators.


The Coca-Cola Company is ideally seeking stories about sweeteners derived from plants other than Stevia or Lo Han Guo (Monk Fruit).

We invite you to share stories and videos about those plants and plant sweeteners that you or those in your culture or community have commonly used, or commonly use, in everyday life. We do not want you to taste, consume, or obtain samples of any substance that you have never consumed before. In fact, The Coca-Cola Company is expressly advising participants not to taste, consume or provide samples of any novel substances. Any submissions that cannot demonstrate a history of the sweetener’s use will be disqualified.

Please carefully read the rules and regulations of the challenge before beginning your submission.



The Coca-Cola Company will assemble a panel of qualified judges, determined in its sole discretion and this judging panel will rank qualified submissions according to the criteria described below.  Judges may contact teams to request further information or clarification.

All judging is up to the judging panel’s discretion, and its decision is final and binding.

Up to 5 winners will be announced on December 13, 2017.


Judging Criteria





Does the submission provide a detailed description of the use for a significant period of time of a plant or plant derived sweetener that is not Stevia or Lo Han Guo (Monk Fruit)?


Engaging, compelling

Does the story share the use of the plant or plant derived sweetener and its significance in life, culture, community? Does it leave the audience touched or moved?



Does the video capture the story of the plant or plant derived sweetener? Is it compelling? Well-made with both audio and visuals being clear and audible?


Invoke emotions

Does the story invoke powerful emotions that resonate with the audience?


Well-crafted story

Does the story engage the audience through effective delivery?

Does the story have a beginning, middle, and end? Correct spelling and grammar? Appropriate tone and sound?


Total Points



All judging is in the discretion of The Coca-Cola Company.  By participating in the challenge, you fully and unconditionally agree to and accept the Challenge Specific Agreement, these guidelines, and the decisions of The Coca-Cola Company, which are final and binding in all matters related to the challenge.



Description of the Plant – this part of the Submission requires a written response based on the following:

  1. What is the plant that you are submitting a story about? What is it called? Where does it grow? What does it look like?
  2. How do you normally find this plant? Do you buy it from a store? From a farmer? Or do you harvest or grow it yourself?
    1. If you purchase it, how much do you usually pay for it?
    2. If you grow it, how long does it take for the plant to grow to maturity?
  3. What does the plant look like?
    1. Please submit a picture of the plant
    2. Please submit another picture of the plant
  4. In what environment does the plant grow?
  5. How long does it take for the plant to grow to maturity for harvesting? (if you do not grow it)
    1. Is the plant farmed? Could it be?
    2. Does the plant grow in the wild?
  6. How do you typically use the substance obtained from the plant to sweeten food or drink?
    1. In what form? I.e. does it need to be cooked? Made into a powder? Is all or only a portion of the plant used?
    2. What quantity is required to provide a sweet taste to the food or drink?
  7. Do not submit a sample of the plant or any sweetener substance derived from it.
  8. Do not taste anything unless you know that it has been safely used for a significant amount of time by those in your culture or community.

The History - this part of the Submission requires a written response based on the following:

  1. Tell us more about the history of the plant.
    1. Do you know its earliest known use? Anecdotally? Through sources?
      1. If you have sources, link them here:
    2. How has it been used historically? In food? Medicinally? Some other way?
  2. Which cultures most commonly use this plant? How have these cultures traditionally used this plant derived sweetener?
  3. Does the plant have any religious, cultural, or ceremonial significance? Tell us more.

The Story - this part of the Submission requires a video, pictorial, or other visual response based on the following:

  1. Submit a video, a picture, or some other visualization of how you, or those in your culture or community uses this plant or plant derived sweetener.  Include a story about this plant derived sweetener. We encourage you to be creative, evoke emotion, and share how this sweetener has been a part of everyday life for you or those in your culture or community.
    1. Submit a video link: The video may not exceed 3 minutes and it must first be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo.  Only the YouTube or Vimeo link may be submitted; please ensure that the link and your video work properly before submitting.
    2. Submit a picture or some other visualization of how the plant or plant derived sweetener is used.


The Prizes

This challenge will award $100,000 USD in total, with up to 5 individual or team prizes. The Coca-Cola Company may choose to award fewer than 5 prizes, dependent on the quality of the submissions and how they meet the judging criteria.






June 13, 2017

Challenge Launch / Registration opens

June 27, 2017

Final Submissions Due

September 28th @5pm EDT

Winners Announced

December 13, 2017



Below are the minimum qualifications for being considered for this challenge. Submissions will be disqualified if they do not satisfy each and every one of these criteria:

  • Plant source (terrestrial, not marine) that is not a genetically modified organism (GMO).
  • Safe for consumption: has already been consumed safely by humans over a significant period of time.
  • The sweetener is derived from a plant other than Stevia or Lo Han Guo (Monk Fruit).
  • Legible, complete and adequate information is provided in the submission


Rules and Regulations

  • Participation is open to anyone who has attained the age of majority in their place of residence, or is older, at the time of entry.
  • Any plant derived sweetener that you submit or tell us about must be safe for consumption, i.e. it has already been consumed safely by humans for a significant period of time.
  • Any submissions that cannot demonstrate a history of the sweetener’s use will be disqualified.
  • By participating, you are fully and unconditionally agreeing to and accept the terms of these guidelines, the Challenge Specific Agreement, and the decisions of the judges, which are final and binding.
  • This challenge may be suspended or cancelled at any time if there is a security breach or administration is impaired in any way, including, but not limited to, fraud, virus or other technical problem. Anyone who is found to have tampered with the entry process or is, at the judges’ sole discretion, disruptive in any manner will be disqualified.
  • To the extent permitted under applicable law, each entrant agrees that The Coca‑Cola Company may cancel, suspend, and/or modify the challenge, or any part of it, if any fraud, technical failure, human error, or any other factor impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the challenge.
  • Entrant agrees that The Coca‑Cola Company may disqualify any entrant that it finds to be tampering with the operation of the challenge or to be acting in violation of these guidelines or the Challenge Specific Agreement or in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, as determined by The Coca‑Cola Company in its sole discretion. Any attempt by any entrant or his or her agent to deliberately undermine the legitimate operation of the challenge may be a violation of the law and The Coca‑Cola Company reserves all rights to seek damages and other remedies (including attorney’s fees) from any such entrant to the fullest extent permitted by law.
  • All disputes will be resolved by binding arbitration in Fulton County, Georgia and in accordance with the laws of the State of Georgia.
  • All personal information collected is subject to The Coca-Cola Company Privacy Policy http://www.coca-cola.com/tcccprivacypolicy.
  • All communications must be in English.
  • The decision whether to pursue the plant derived sweetener in light of all the considerations known or submitted, including but not limited to, taste, performance, safety, cost, consumer perception, rights of indigenous people, intellectual property rights, or any other considerations or restrictions, shall be at the sole and absolute discretion of The Coca-Cola Company. 
  • The Coca-Cola Company will independently seek regulatory approval for use of the substance in food and beverages from the relevant regulatory authorities in various countries.
  • Innovator will retain all intellectual property rights to their technology.
  • This challenge is subject to all the provisions of the Challenge Specific Agreement, which are incorporated into these guidelines by reference.
Updates 20
Forum 16
Community 1.3K