Aspartame 'breakdown' drives Diet Pepsi dance for new sweetening system?

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Diet pepsi, Sucralose, Pepsi, Saudi arabia, Pepsico

Aspartame 'breakdown' drives Diet Pepsi dance for new sweetening system?
As reports circulate suggesting PepsiCo is trialing an alternative sweetening system for Diet Pepsi, the company insists that it has no intention of altering the drink’s formula or taste.

PepsiCo spokeswoman Andrea Foote sent BeverageDaily.com her company’s official statement, reassuring consumers that the Diet Pepsi formula would not change.

"While we are always looking at ways to provide the best consumer experience, we have no intention of changing the Diet Pepsi formula or the great taste that our consumers know and love,”​ she said.

The Wall Street Journal ​reported today that two unnamed, independent PepsiCo bottlers had told it that the issue related less to Diet Pepsi’s formula than the sweetening system it now uses.

Drinks losing sweetness

US Diet Pepsi used aspartame alone as an artificial sweetener, but this was prone to breakdown within the soda – especially during hot summer months – while excess shaking during transportation could affect taste, the paper claimed.

Asked about these points, one unnamed industry source told this publication: “This is a known issue with aspartame. It is very sensitive to heat and breaks down (loses sweetness) easily.”

The WSJ​’s bottling sources reportedly told the paper that Diet Pepsi variations from as close to home as Canada, and as far away as Saudi Arabia were being tested with the soda’s US fans.

Shakin' up brand Pepsi

Provided a suitable replacement system could be found, perhaps aspartame in combination with acesulfame-K (Ace-K), PepsiCo aimed to roll it out across US Diet Pepsi from early 2013, according to the source.

Rumours of a sweetening step change come as PepsiCo strives to improve its Americas beverage business following recent poor performance, namely a 15% Q2 2012 EBIT slump.

Nonetheless, as of July 25 and its Q2 2012 results announcement, PepsiCo was pinning high hopes on mid-calorie launch Pepsi NEXT and a recent revival in its single-serve business for brand Pepsi.

The company said it was seeing growth in this business for the first time in a long time, and sees performance in this channel – with sales not usually skewed by holidays or discounting overlaps – as a true test of brand strength.

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