PepsiCo overhauls recipe for its Zero Sugar cola

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Dive Brief:

  • PepsiCo is changing the recipe of Pepsi Zero Sugar to more closely mirror the taste of its signature cola with sugar, the snack and beverage giant said in a statement.
  • Compared to the previous version of its Pepsi Zero Sugar, the soda maker said it made the caffeine level the same as regular Pepsi and removed the ginseng, which is not in the sugar version of the beverage. 
  • The change to Pepsi Zero Sugar comes as shoppers look for ways to curtail their sugar intake.

Dive Insight:

While the cola wars of the 1980s might seem a distant memory, for PepsiCo and its archrival Coca-Cola the competition between the soda giants remains as vibrant as ever.

Beverage makers are cognizant that consumers are cutting back on sugar, making it important for them to have a market-leading product that taps into this ever-growing demographic.

Sugar-free colas are one channel beverage makers are turning to for growth. The global sugar-free carbonated drinks market size was valued at $125.3 billion in 2020 and is forecast to reach $243.5 billion by 2030, a compound annual growth rate of 7.3%, according to data from Allied Market Research.

The goal for PepsiCo and others is to create an offering that tastes as close to or the same as the original cola in order to give hesitant consumers a reason to make the switch.

“It is not as simple as pulling sugar out of the product, you must add ingredients one at a time, monitoring the flavor impact and fine tuning the amounts of ingredients until you get the perfect taste,” Damian Browne, vice president of R&D at PepsiCo Beverages North America, said in an email.

In a statement, PepsiCo said consumer testing has shown the new Pepsi Zero Sugar beats the old formula, including in key metrics such as liking and purchase intent. Consumers in a comprehensive assessment study preferred the new Pepsi Zero Sugar, the company said, considering it more refreshing, tasty and having a real cola taste.

The reformulation of the Zero Sugar beverage line is just the beginning. Mango and Wild Cherry flavors also will be reformulated and arrive on shelves this spring, the company said.

The change to its Zero Sugar offering comes as PepsiCo trails a similar product from its archrival Coca-Cola. Pepsi’s no-sugar cola has captured less than 1% of overall soda sales compared to Coke’s nearly 4%, according to Beverage Digest data cited by CNN, making its refresh of Zero Sugar a low-risk and necessary endeavor.

Two years ago, the Atlanta-based company launched an updated version of its Coca-Cola Zero Sugar it said tasted more like its iconic namesake beverage. The new version, however, used the same ingredients.

PepsiCo has recently made big changes to portions of its beverage portfolio in places the company is lagging, aiming to improve its position in the marketplace. In addition to Zero Sugar, last week PepsiCo rolled out its latest soda, a lemon-lime offering called Starry that could be a replacement for Sierra Mist. 

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About the Author

Jervie David Montejar
A food lover who wants to try every delicious dishes around him and spread the news to everyone to try it as well. Finding the latest trends about food and restaurants around Cebu and the rest of the world :) "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." -Ernestine Ulmer
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