The craze of diet sodas has been on the sliding scale over the past couple of years. Dieting trends like the South Beach Diet, the low-carb diet, the Paleo diet, and even the Shangri-La diet have made their rounds time and time again in magazines and in our daily lives.
Though the diets differ on many things, one thing is clear: Sodas, especially diet sodas, are bad. The research supports some claims on that; the studies out there suggest that it is better for the body to be able to absorb the substances we digest versus not.
But some studies say that the artificial sweeteners all around us cut our calories because they pass through our system without breaking down. Therefore, our body doesn't absorb them as it would natural sugar, and we don't gain weight. Brands like Pepsi hopped on this bandwagon early on and added a sweetener called aspartame to its diet soda, making it sweet while providing less calories. A win-win!
Until the whole foods trend kicked in, and a marketing machine claimed that aspartame, in continual doses over time, could cause cancer and other serious health problems.
Come to now, where Diet Pepsi, in the last year, lost 6.6% in sales. Diet soda overall isn't doing too well.
With the change in attitudes and lifestyles, PepsiCO decided to make a change. They are taking aspartame out and adding the natural, light sweetener sucralose in. The hope is to boost sales of Diet Pepsi while maintaining that low calorie count so it can be considered diet.
This is the perfect example to show the power of perception. The common opinion in our society is that aspartame is bad. Yes, we were part of the crowd as well. Why exchange something natural for something not?
But looking into this, we found an article by the American Cancer Society. They explain in detail that there is no lab-recreated study that can prove that aspartame causes cancer or any other serious health problem, even when consumed in large doses! Diet Pepsi, in its regular form, would be fine!
Except the typical consumer won't believe a brand saying "Come back, our product is fine. See? Even science says it's OK." The cigarette industry ruined that argument for everyone.
Since PepsiCo cannot point to science and reason to win their consumers back, they have to spend millions of dollars in research and resources to make sure they get the recipe right. Now they will spend millions showing people that the new formula is healthy and diet, exactly what the consumers want.
So it goes.
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.