Kaufman, who is senior vice president, Pepsi & Pepsi Flavors Portfolio, PepsiCo North America Beverages, was speaking to us after announcing plans to remove aspartame from Diet Pepsi, Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi, and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi in the US by August (click HERE for details).
However, rival Coca-Cola said it had no plans to drop aspartame from Diet Coke, and several commentators queried whether Pepsi's decision to drop aspartame would transform Diet Pepsi's fortunes.
Kaufman told FoodNavigator-USA: “We’ve done a ton of work on consumer calls, letters, along with primary research and social listening and the number one reason why US consumers are drinking less diet cola is because of aspartame.
“This is about evolving consumer demand in the US and in diet cola specifically we kept hearing about aspartame over and over again from consumers.”
Asked about the cost implications of switching to sucralose, which has historically been much more expensive than aspartame, but has recently dropped considerably in price, he said: “This new approach won’t change our pricing strategy for Diet Pepsi but as you can imagine a lot of supply chain work as well as consumer work has been involved [in making the switch].”
The number one reason why US consumers are drinking less diet cola is because of aspartame
Asked whether consumers were just bored of Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke and looking for other kinds of beverages now, regardless of the sweetening system these brands chose, he said: “I would agree that there are many many more options for consumers today than there were several years ago, and we have products that meet all of these needs.
“That said, in diet cola specifically in the US, our research shows that the key reason folks said they were drinking less diet cola was specifically this [aspartame], so we’re really confident that with this change, consumers will reappraise, and come back into the Diet Pepsi franchise.”
Pepsi True performing well with subset of consumers
Asked about the performance of stevia-and-sugar-sweetened mid-calorie cola Pepsi True, which is now available in selected retailers in Denver, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. following a soft launch on Amazon in late 2014, he said: “Naturally-sweetened mid cal has its place in the market with a subset of consumers.
“We’re really really happy with how it is performing with that subset of consumers. With a cola, if you nail taste and refreshment you're in a pretty good place."
Read more here:
- Diet Pepsi reformulation: ‘Does making aspartame the bad guy solve diet soda’s problems? Probably not.’
- PepsiCo ditches aspartame from Diet Pepsi in US: ‘While decades of studies show aspartame is safe, we recognize that consumer demand is evolving’
- FDA rejects calls for aspartame ban: ‘No new credible scientific evidence has been presented’