PepsiCo Changes Diet Pepsi Sweetener

Published in CSP Daily News

Makes move quietly ahead of major brand relaunch

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Diet Pepsi is quietly changing its sweetener ahead of a major rebranding of the soft drink set for next month, according to an Associated Press report. The change comes as PepsiCo Inc. looks to reinvigorate its namesake brands after losing market share to Coca-Cola Co. in recent years, said the news agency.

Cans of Diet Pepsi around the country now list a mix of two artificial sweeteners, a pairing that is commonly found in newer diet sodas, the report said. Previously, Diet Pepsi used only aspartame, which is sensitive to heat and breaks down more easily.

This summer, PepsiCo had declined to say whether it would go ahead with such a change after reports surfaced that it was testing the new sweeteners. Although the switch is only intended to help prevent the taste from degrading over time, companies are often sensitive to public perceptions that they might be tinkering with major brands.

PepsiCo executives likely do not want to call any attention to the use of artificial sweeteners in the drink either, AP speculated.

PepsiCo spokesperson Andrea Canabal said that Diet Pepsi using the new sweetener mix started hitting shelves in early December. She said the new mix will be more widely available in the coming weeks.

"It's not like a light switch. It'll start appearing as shelf space clears," she told the news agency.

She said that the company is planning a major ad campaign in January that will include a new logo with a heart and the theme "Love Every Sip."

The sweetener change will not be explicitly communicated in the ads, which will feature actress Sofia Vergara.

In addition to aspartame, cans of Diet Pepsi found in New York, Omaha, Neb., and the Bay Area now list acesulfame potassium as an ingredient. The ingredient is often used in combination with other artificial sweeteners and can be found in a wide range of foods including baked goods, chewing gum and gelatin desserts.

John Sicher, editor and publisher of the industry tracker Beverage Digest, said the synergistic effect of mixing the two sweeteners is intended to help keep the drink's sweetening power at a constant level, making it taste fresh longer.

"A change in sweetener does not change the flavor," he noted.

PepsiCo said in a statement Sunday that it was adding a "very small amount" of acesulfame potassium "to ensure consistency with every sip." The sweeteners used in Diet Pepsi vary depending on the region of the world.

The move to improve Diet Pepsi comes amid a broader push by PepsiCo to boost sales of its flagship soda. Under pressure from investors, CEO Indra Nooyi earlier this year announced the company would step up investment in its flagship brands.

Already this year, PepsiCo has made several splashy moves including a wide-ranging partnership with singer Beyonce and a multiyear deal with the National Football League to sponsor the Super Bowl halftime show. TV ads for Pepsi have also featured singer Nicki Minaj, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the boy band One Direction and international soccer stars including Lionel Messi.

Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo is a global food and beverage leader with net revenues of more than $65 billion and a product portfolio that includes 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in annual retail sales. Its main businesses are Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade, Frito-Lay and Pepsi-Cola.