Diet Pepsi brings back aspartame with launch of Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Diet Pepsi brings back aspartame

Related tags Diet pepsi Cola Pepsi

Last year PepsiCo ditched aspartame from Diet Pepsi in the US, having seen it fall out of favor with some consumers. Now it has announced it will launch an aspartame-sweetened version – ‘Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend’ – alongside aspartame-free Diet Pepsi. 

Diet Pepsi – which has been sweetened with sucralose and Ace K instead of aspartame since August – will continue to be PepsiCo’s primary diet cola product in the US.

However, Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend (sweetened with aspartame and Ace K) is to be launched in three SKUs this fall.

Pepsi says the move is to introduce more choice to its Diet portfolio: critics​ say it suggests aspartame-free​ has not been the success Pepsi had hoped for.

Meanwhile, Pepsi Max will be re-introduced in the US as Pepsi Zero Sugar.

Aspartame out in 2015

Diet sodas have been struggling for some time,​ affecting not just Pepsi but across other soda giants as well.

Last year PepsiCo reformulated its Diet Pepsi, Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi, and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi products, replacing aspartame with sucralose and acesulfame potassium, with the new formulation introduced in August.

CEO Indra Nooyi, explaining the reasons for the formula change last July, said PepsiCo had seen aspartame ‘fall out of favor with some consumers’ and the new version of Diet Pepsi was designed to cater for them.  

Aspartame, although considered safe by all major scientific and regulatory bodies, still raises concerns with some activists and consumer groups over fears it may be carcinogenic.

New Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend

Pepsi’s new Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend will be available at retail outlets throughout the US.

PepsiCo had previously said it would continue to make an aspartame version of Diet Pepsi available, although its suggestions were that this would be done online. Classic Sweetener Blend, however, will be available in retail outlets across three SKUs – 12-packs, 2-liter bottles and 20-oz bottles.

“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 statement from PepsiCo.

Pepsi’s US diet cola portfolio refresh is as follows:

  • Pepsi Max to be re-introduced as Pepsi Zero Sugar. Pepsi says the new name will make it more clear to consumers that the product is a zero-calorie option. The formula (sweetened with aspartame and Ace-K, with cola flavor and ginseng) will remain the same.
  • Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend to be launched in three SKUs in retro packaging. Sweetened with aspartame and Ace-K, this beverage will be available in 12-packs, 2-liter bottles and-20 ounce bottles.
  • Diet Pepsi to continue as the main diet cola for PepsiCo, available in all SKUs and on fountain. Diet Pepsi is sweetened with sucralose and Ace-K.

Choice at every level - but what choices do consumers want? Editor's comment

The magic word the soda industry is relying on is choice – ​and so is Pepsi as it re-introduces an aspartame sweetened Diet Pepsi option alongside the reformulated Diet Pepsi.

Faced with more discerning and demanding consumers, companies are offering as much choice at every level in the hope of finding a fit for more consumers.  

Consumers have the choice between full-calorie, mid-calorie, and low-calorie varieties: a choice the beverage industry highlights when defending itself against attacks on sugary beverages.

And – despite having pinned its colors firmly to the aspartame-free mast only a year ago - Pepsi now says consumers want more choice within its diet colas. It is evidently hoping that offering choice within the diet category between different sweeteners and tastes is enough to please more consumers.

But is the option to choose between aspartame and sucralose – two artificial sweeteners - the choice consumers are actually looking for? How much is too much when it comes to choice – do consumers appreciate the options or are they being left confused? How many Diet Pepsi variants will retailers be prepared to stock?

And the big question is whether consumers want to choose diet soda - or indeed any soda - over other beverages.

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