Hot on the heels of Kraft’s announcement that it is taking artificial dyes out of Macaroni & Cheese, another food giant is reformulating a famous product: PepsiCo says that Diet Pepsi sold in America will no longer contain aspartame.
PepsiCo will replace the controversial sugar substitute with sucralose, another calorie-free, artificial sweetener, commonly known under its branded name, Splenda. However, PepsiCo says aspartame is safe and that it will continue to use it outside the US.
The company says the decision was in response to consumer surveys that found aspartame was the top reason Americans were drinking fewer diet sodas. US sales of Diet Pepsi fell 5.2% by volume last year, and sales of Diet Coke were down 6.6%, according to Beverage Digest data cited today in the Wall Street Journal.
On a call with analysts just yesterday (April 23), PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi noted she’d “never seen the consumer as confused as they are today” about what constitutes a healthy dietary choice.
If you had asked me a few years ago, people were moving to diet sodas. Now they view real sugar as good for you. They are willing to go to organic, non-GMO products even if it has high salt, high sugar, high fat. So I think we have a challenge these days to really think about what is the definition of ‘good for you’ from a consumer perspective.
The latest move won’t necessarily clear things up for consumers. The Center for Science in the Public Interest applauded PepsiCo’s plan to dump aspartame, which it says has been connected to cancer in animals. But the industry watchdog group noted that Diet Pepsi will still be made with acesulfame-potassium, an artificial sweetener it says is “poorly tested” and “might pose a cancer risk.” (Sucralose, it said, is “likely a safer sweetener.”)
Quartz reached out to PepsiCo for a response to CSPI’s statement and will update this post as warranted.
The photograph at the top of this post was taken by Mike Mozart and shared under a Creative Commons license on Flickr. It has been cropped.