On Monday, PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE: PEP) confirmed that the Diet Pepsi with aspartame will come back in September to stop the plunging sales of diet cola, as one of the crucial changes to Pepsi’s diet soda portfolio in the U.S.
The company said that Diet Pepsi brand with sucralose and Ace-K, which was introduced last August to substitute for aspartame, will still remain. Pepsi MAX will be renamed Pepsi Zero Sugar but will remain the same formula. The change of the name is to stress that the cola has no calories, and hope to imitate the success of Coca-Cola Zero, which has better performance than other kinds of diet coke. Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blender, which is sweetened with aspartame, will be sold at retail outlets in 12-packs, 2-liter bottles and 20-ounce bottles.
“Consumers want choice in diet colas, so we’re refreshing our U.S. lineup to provide three options that meet differing needs and taste preferences,” PepsiCo said in a statement on Monday.
According to industry tracker Beverage Digest, sales volumes of Diet Pepsi decreased 10.6% in the first quarter of 2016 in the U.S. stores. Pepsi Max, which is sweetened with aspartame, also fell 12.3% over the same period. Even sales of Coca-Cola Co.’s Diet Coke, the best-selling diet coke in the U.S., also fell 5.7% in the first quarter.
The plunging diet coke sales is related to the increasingly rejection of all artificial sweeteners of Americans. According to a survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, 42% of Americans avoided aspartame, 35% avoided sucralose, increase from 25% last year, and 28% of American avoided Ace K, up from 13% last year.
Last year, PepsiCo changed the recipe of Diet Pepsi because a survey showed that aspartame was the top reason that Americans gave up diet coke. It is still controversial between U.S. Food and Drug Administration and some studies that whether aspartame is safety or have health concerns.
“When you change the taste of a product that people rely on for consistency of taste, that can have pretty damaging brand effects. You always want to be right, but when the market is telling you that your product is not right for what they want -- or certainly less than before -- you have to make that shift.” said Adam Fleck, an analyst at Morningstar Inc.