Soda giant PepsiCo is replacing the artificial sweetener aspartame in their Diet Pepsi product. The company says, however, that the move is purely commercial and not because of the health concerns surrounding the sugar substitute.
“Aspartame is the number one reason consumers are dropping diet soda,” PepsiCo vice president Seth Kaufman told the BBC. This comes after a slide in the sales of diet soft drinks in 2014.
PepsiCo will change the sweetener into sucralose mixed with Ace-K (acesulfame potassium).
The aspartame-free type of Diet Pepsi will hit the US market in August 2015. The company, however, will not reformulate the drink in the UK as, in the words of a PepsiCo spokesman, “consumers in the UK market love Diet Pepsi just as it is today.”
All varieties of Diet Pepsi will be affected, such as Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi and Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi. Other PepsiCo drinks will not undergo reformulation.
Decline of ‘Diet’ Drinks
In 2014, both Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi saw a decline in sales – 6.6% and 5%, respectively. Despite the slump in these figures, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola did see an increase in the total sales for the year.
Experts attribute the slump to the controversies that surround aspartame. Diet drinks, however, are not the only beverages declining in popularity. Fizzy drinks, in general, have become less favored in the US in the past years.
Consumers are moving towards healthier alternatives, which explain Nestlé’s 9% increase in sales because of bottled water. Coffee – including cold blends – and energy drinks have become more popular, too.
Health Concerns on Aspartame
Both the United States and the United Kingdom maintain that aspartame is safe for consumption. European regulators insist that the artificial sweetener is not dangerous as a food additive. In the case of the US, the Food and Drug Administration cites over 100 studies that say aspartame is safe.
Both agencies, however, agree that the consumption of aspartame has to have a limit – and that limit is equivalent to 14 cans of sugar-free beverages per day.
Despite the stand of these government agencies, health concerns on aspartame did not die down. It has been a widely controversial ingredient since the approval of its use in the ‘80s.
Several studies point to potential side-effects of aspartame. A 2005 research, for instance, claims that the intake of aspartame increases the likelihood of tumor development among humans. This has led to a widespread scrutiny of the sweetener. As of posting, however, there is no conclusive evidence on either the safety or the dangers of the ingredient.