Meet the New Diet Pepsi, the Same as the Old Diet Pepsi

  • Diet Pepsi’s sales volume tumbled 5.8 percent last year
  • Aspartame-free version will remain Pepsi’s primary diet cola

PepsiCo Inc., struggling to cope with plunging sales and unpredictable consumers, is bringing back its old Diet Pepsi formula less than a year after phasing it out. 

Diet Pepsi, which was reformulated in August to drop the artificial sweetener aspartame, will be sold in its old recipe as Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener blend in retro packaging, PepsiCo said Monday. As part of a broader revamp of its diet-cola lineup, the company also is renaming Pepsi Max as Pepsi Zero Sugar in the U.S. to more clearly show that the beverage has zero calories.

Pepsi Co. diet cola brands.

Source: Pepsi Co.

While PepsiCo says that Diet Pepsi without aspartame will continue to be the company’s primary diet cola, reviving the drink’s old recipe signals that the new version -- an an attempt to woo consumers increasingly wary of aspartame -- hasn’t been a hit. Diet Pepsi’s sales volume fell 5.8 percent in 2015 and dropped roughly 11 percent at retail during the first quarter of 2016, according to data from Beverage Digest, which reported on the changes earlier.

“When you change the taste of a product that people rely on for consistency of taste, that can have pretty damaging brand effects,” said Adam Fleck, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. “You always want to be right, but when the market is telling you that your product is not right for what they want -- or certainly less than before -- you have to make that shift.”

The shares fell 0.4 percent to $101.55 at 10:54 a.m. in New York. PepsiCo, based in Purchase, New York, had gained 2.1 percent this year through the end of last week.

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