As consumers and dietitians become increasingly wary of artificial sweeteners and sodas that contain them, the makers of diet soft drinks are seeing sales dip, and they are responding with different ingredients, or at least different marketing strategies.
PepsiCo said Friday it will remove aspartame (more commonly known as Nutrasweet and Equal) from Diet Pepsi in the U.S., and replace it mostly with sucralose, another artificial sweetener, in a move to reverse plunging sales.
Most diet sodas use aspartame. But sucralose (widely known as Splenda in packet form) is an artificial sweetener which may also carry health concerns, although no study has concluded there is a direct cause-and-effect between the use of sugar substitutes and health issues.
Dietitians caution about diet soda drinks with any artificial sweetener because they telegraph to your taste buds that you prefer a sweeter taste, leaving many with a sweet tooth for foods or drinks with real sugar. Some studies have questioned the affects of artificial sweeteners on blood sugar control, especially in individuals with type 2 diabetes or a predisposition for the disease, known as prediabetes.
Because sugar substitutes are often combined with “sugar alcohols,” there can be gastrointestinal side effects, such as bloating or diarrhea. Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates that occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables, but they also can be manufactured.
Aspartame Cited Most by Consumers
Pepsi said it is making the move in response to consumer surveys that show aspartame is the top reason that Americans are drinking less diet colas.
Even though the Food and Drug Administration say such sweeteners are safe, aspartame has been widely panned by consumers in recent years.
But PepsiCo said it continues to stand behind the safety of aspartame and will keep using it outside the U.S. But it said it would start shipping Diet Pepsi without aspartame to U.S. stores in August.
Diet Pepsi sales fell by 5.2 percent by volume in the U.S. last year, according to industry tracker Beverage Digest.
Instead of aspartame, Diet Pepsi, Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi will be sweetened with a blend of artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame potassium in the U.S., Pepsi said.