Pepsi is eliminating aspartame from its Diet Pepsi line of products due to waning sales and because customers have asked, but the change that they are asking for won’t necessarily lead to a healthier product.
Diet cola sales in general have been on the slide for several years, and PepsiCo believes that the major reason their diet cola product sales are suffering is because they contain the artificial sweetener aspartame.
“Decades of studies have shown that aspartame is safe, but the reality is that consumer demand in the U.S. has been evolving,” Seth Kaufman, senior vice president of Pepsi told Bloomberg. “The U.S. diet cola consumer has been asking and asking and asking for an aspartame-free great diet cola.”
But Pepsi may be missing the mark. The trend may not necessarily be one that is anti-aspartame, but one where consumers are wanting more natural products, with less synthetic ingredients.
A shift has been seen recently in the fast-food industry, with several restaurants reacting to consumer demands and producing a higher-quality product by sourcing from suppliers who provide more natural ingredients. Fast-food giants Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s have both recently announced that they will be serving antibiotic-free chicken in their restaurants; and this week, Chipotle Mexican Grill became the first large chain restaurant in America to completely do away with GMOs in all of their food.
If natural is what consumers are craving, then simply switching one artificial sweetener for another may not impress consumers or increase sales.
According to The Washington Post, Diet Pepsi’s primary competitor, Diet Coke, also sweetened with aspartame, has no plans to change its formula. Coca-Cola may not feel the need to alter their diet coke formula, because despite declining sales, Diet Coke is still the best-selling diet cola in the world. Coca-Cola also recently launched an alternative low-calorie cola labeled Coca-Cola Life, a product that is sweetened with a natural blend of cane sugar and stevia leaf extract.
Pepsi will use sucralose, also known as Splenda, in place of the currently used asparatame. Though sucralose does not have quite the unhealthy consumer perception that aspartame does, it is not a product without questions. Bloomberg reported that The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends “caution” when it comes to sucralose use, as an unpublished study linked the sweetener to leukemia in mice.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that both aspartame and sucralose are sweeteners safe for human consumption.
Aspartame-free Diet Pepsi is slated to hit store shelves in August.