PepsiCo has announced that it will begin switching the artificial sweetening agent in Diet Pepsi from aspartame to sucralose. For all the visual learners out there, that just means they’ll be using the yellow packets instead of the blue ones. It does not mean they will be removing artificial sweeteners from their diet sodas. Nor does it mean they will be adding calories.
Whether or not you choose to drink diet soda or even use the pink, blue, or yellow packets, the important thing is this: The big food giants are listening.
Pepsi Vice President Seth Kaufman tells the Associated Press that “aspartame is the number one reason consumers are dropping diet soda.” While decades of FDA studies have proven aspartame to be safe, a growing number of Americans are concerned about artificial sweeteners. “Removing aspartame is [the consumer’s] number one concern,” says Kaufman. "We recognize that consumer demand is evolving and we're confident that cola-lovers will enjoy the crisp, refreshing taste of this new product." Based on Beverage Digest’s sales figures, per-capita sales of Diet Pepsi have declined by 37% between 1998 and 2014.
The change applies to regular Diet Pepsi, Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi, and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi sold in the US. For the moment, PepsiCo has no plans to replace aspartame in other diet beverages such as Diet Mountain Dew (its second highest selling diet soda), whose sales volume fell 3% last year.
The entire US carbonated soft drink industry has seen a decade-long decline in sales, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Aspartame is reportedly 200 times sweeter than table sugar, while sucralose is 600 times sweeter. More simply stated, the yellow packet is 3 times sweeter than the blue one. That’s quite a difference. But if you’re worried about taste, Pepsi claims there will be no detectable flavor difference once the change occurs, but it might have a “slightly different mouthfeel,” according to Kaufman.