Diet Pepsi reformulation :
April 30, 2015: The Ajinomoto Group is disappointed that PepsiCo has elected to move away from aspartame in the sweetener formulations of its Diet Pepsi products. PepsiCo has been clear that this is a marketing move in response to declining sales of the product line, rather than a reflection on aspartame's taste or safety.
Consumer research shows that 100% aspartame offers consumers the closest possible match to 100% sugar, but without the calories.
This move by Diet Pepsi is surprising in view of the following background:
- When aspartame was made available for use in carbonated soft drinks in the 1980s, Diet Pepsi was the first major national brand to launch products with 100% aspartame.
- As reported in Beverage Digest in April, carbonates in general are losing share to water and non-carbonated beverages. In 2014, sales of these categories were two and a half times greater than they were in 2000. Users of diet soft drinks are more likely to switch to water than are users of regular, full sugar products. This has an important influence on sales of diet carbonates.
- Pepsi One, which was reformulated in 2005 to contain the same two sweeteners that will be used in the new version of Diet Pepsi, was withdrawn in 2014.
- This is the second change to the formulation of Diet Pepsi in the United States in recent years. In December 2012, Diet Pepsi was reformulated to contain a mix of aspartame and acesulfame-potassium. Recently, sales have declined steeply.
- Diet Coke with 100% aspartame continues to be the third biggest selling soft drink in the United States.
- People's biggest concerns about what is in their food relate to sugar, fat and sodium. Nevertheless, if consumers are prompted in research questionnaires about any ingredients that they perceive to be artificial, they will say that they prefer to avoid them. Unprompted consumer attitudes reported by the Corn Refiners Association in March showed that very few consumers are actively seeking to avoid low calorie sweeteners or aspartame.
It is unfortunate that claims by Diet Pepsi that the brand's new formulation is "aspartame free" may unsettle some consumers about aspartame, which is a wholesome and thoroughly tested food ingredient that tastes more like sugar than any other low calorie sweetener. At a time when the government and health care providers are seeking effective ways to help people manage their weight, claims of this sort will be counter-productive.