PepsiCo Inc. is trying out new artificial sweeteners that would let its diet soda keep its sweet taste for a longer period of time, The Washington Post reports. The current sweetener used in Diet Pepsi — aspartame — loses its potency faster than high fructose corn syrup, the sweetener that's used in most regular sodas. This can result in both an uneven flavor in the soda and a shorter shelf life.
When the company figures out a better sweetener blend, a new version of Diet Pepsi will be released as early as next year. It will use the same formula that creates Diet Pepsi's overall taste, but will add a mix of artificial sweeteners, including acesulfame-potassium, or ace-K, that has a longer shelf life (and sounds like something you could buy on the street). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ace-K in 1998.
The change has nothing to do with allegations that aspartame (brand names NutraSweet, Equal) rusts your joints and makes tumors explode in your brain. Soda scientists acknowledge only that aspartame is more sensitive to heat, which is a problem when sodas are sitting in trucks or waiting to be shipped to stores.
By blending artificial sweeteners, chemists create a “synergistic effect” that prolongs the sweetener's potency — i.e., when the flavor of one sweetener is wearing off, another takes over.
If you anticipate a new-formula debacle along the lines of 1985's New Coke disaster, fear not — no one drinks Diet Pepsi anyway. Coke and Diet Coke hold the spots for top two sodas in the country. Diet Pepsi is way down the list at No. 7. Its sales volume last year was about half that of Diet Coke, according to Beverage Digest. (Not to get all sentimental here, but we have fond memories of our former brother-in-law going absolutely apeshit when offered a Diet Pepsi instead of a Diet Coke at his wedding breakfast in Atlanta.)
It's not the first time PepsiCo. is tweaking a diet soft drink. The company made a similar change to its Diet Mountain Dew in 2006. We're sure you all remember that.
A spokesman for Coca-Cola told the Post that there are no changes planned for Diet Coke, which just turned 30 and still uses only aspartame as a sweetener. Indeed — why mess with a formula that has been dubbed “liquid crack”?
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