Pepsi learns that nothing is quite like the bittersweet tang of aspartame

Less than a year after ruining the flavor of diet Pepsi by switching from aspartame to sucralose due to “customer demand,” Pepsi plans to bring back the original formulation.

When PepsiCo removed aspartame from Diet Pepsi in August, it said the change was the No. 1 request by customers. Industry executives have blamed the declining sale of diet sodas on concerns people have about the ingredient.

All the fanfare around the change belied the fact that if you think “health” concerns are the most actionable criteria for soda drinkers over something like taste, then you’re terrible at running a company. I drink a ton of diet soda, but I’m not going to pretend it’s the healthy beverage choice. People are leaving soda predominantly to drink water as an overall healthier choice, not just because aspartame is uniquely abhorrent as an artificial sweetener (even if people loudly say it is), but because artificial sweeteners are not natural/organic/magical/goodforyou. And is water is obviously the best beverage choice (other than coffee in excess and alcohol in moderation, both of which can make you nearly immortal).

The old version is going to be an additional offering in the Pepsi lineup and not a return for the flagship product (which is probably still a mistake). The new formulation is terrible: I noticed the change before I’d even heard the news. In a can (without tons of ice), it’s almost completely unpalatable.

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