PepsiCo Expected To Ditch Aspartame-Free Diet Pepsi Amid Continued Sales Declines

Posted On: 6/10/2016

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TAGS: PepsiCo, aspartame-free reformulation, Diet Pepsi reformulation, diet soda sales declines, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (Ace K), now aspartame-free, Diet Pepsi consumption, cola formulas

PURCHASE, NY -- PepsiCo introduced its aspartame-free reformulation of Diet Pepsi less than a year ago, but the new recipe has not reversed declining sales. So the soda giant is reportedly about to take another new direction.

The new version of the venerable low-calorie soft drink, which rolled out last August, is sweetened with a blend of sucralose and acesulfame potassium (Ace K), rather than aspartame. Accordingly, it's labeled "now aspartame-free." The reformulation was in direct response to consumers' health concerns and complaints about the sweetener, but instead of boosting sales, Diet Pepsi's performance fell further after the new recipe's debut. In 2015, Diet Pepsi consumption dropped 5.8% by volume, according to Beverage Digest.

Social media tracker Sysomos found that that negative tweets about Diet Pepsi outnumbered positive tweets two-to-one between October and May.

A person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal that PepsiCo plans to talk with bottlers about its action plan for Diet Pepsi, and may announce changes soon. Until then, industry analysts can only speculate whether that would involve returning aspartame to the recipe or a completely new formulation, or something else.

The return of the original Diet Pepsi seems unlikely, since diet cola consumption has declined in the U.S. every year for the past five years, according to Beverage Digest data. Health safety concerns over artificial sweeteners have apparently trumped the desire to cut calories for many consumers.

Less than 25% of PepsiCo's global sales are from soda and the company, as well as rival Coca-Cola Co., has been responding by investing in new products centered around wellness.