PepsiCo is putting aspartame back in some of its diet beverages less than a year after pulling the artificial sweetener as part of a marketing move over safety concerns.
The sweetener had been linked to cancer in lab mice and industry executives blamed the decline in sales on unfounded concerns people have about aspartame. The removal of the sweetener tested the theory that the sweetener was to blame for declining sales. But the move seems to have been a misstep, with consumers dissatisfied over the change in flavour without the sweetener.
Pepsi MAX will be re-introduced to US consumers this fall as Pepsi Zero Sugar and will contain aspartame. Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend will contain aspartame in its formula. But Diet Pepsi will continue to be sweetened without aspartame.
PepsiCo however will bring back its previous formula in a limited number of packages, according to Beverage Digest. The drink's light blue cans will be labelled with 'Classic Sweetener Blend' and will be on shelves in September.
"PepsiCo's aspartame-free formula was a significant gamble with a large cash-generating brand that has so far not worked to plan," Beverage Digest said.
PepsiCo confirmed the report via email to TheStreet. "Consumers want choice in diet colas, so we're refreshing our US lineup to provide three options that meet differing needs and taste preferences," said a PepsiCo spokeswoman.
The decision marks a rare product miss for the beverage giant. Last August, Diet Pepsi in the US launched with a blend of sucralose and acesulfame potassium as sweeteners as opposed to the long-used aspartame. Negative publicity about aspartame has caused more health-conscious consumers to abandon diet colas from PepsiCo and arch rival Coca-Cola in recent years.
But the taste of new Diet Pepsi was quickly panned by consumers on social media. And they voiced their opinion at the supermarket.
Diet Pepsi volumes declined 5.8 per cent last year, according to data from Beverage Digest. Sales trends worsened in the first quarter. Diet Pepsi volume fell 10.6 per cent, almost double the 5.7 per cent decline for Diet Coke, which stayed with aspartame as its primary sweetener.