Major Diet Soda to Part Ways with Aspartame

Diet Pepsi officials respond to consumer concerns about aspartame

Oh, how sweet it was — while it lasted. Beginning in August, Diet Pepsi will hit store shelves in the US without the artificial sweetener aspartame.

In its place will be sucralose, known more popularly as Splenda. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains that aspartame is "one of the most exhaustively studied substances in the human food supply, with more than 100 studies supporting its safety."

Nevertheless, many customers may not see it that way. Sales for Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke alike dropped markedly last year in the US. As PepsiCo Vice President Seth Kaufman put it to BBC News, "Aspartame is the number one reason consumers are dropping diet soda."

That hasn't been the case everywhere, however. In the United Kingdom, for instance, consumers seem to be unphased by the stigma surrounding the sweetener.

"Consumers in the UK market love Diet Pepsi just as it is today," a PepsiCo spokesman said, via BBC News. "Pepsi uses a variety of approved sweetener options to create great-tasting colas, including aspartame, which remains an important sweetener in some Pepsi beverages around the world, including Diet Pepsi in the UK market."

Indeed, this was more likely a response to US consumer preference than any health concerns.

"Diet cola drinkers in the US told us they wanted aspartame-free Diet Pepsi, and we're delivering," Kaufman said in a press statement.

It remains to be seen whether the move will set a trend — or, for that matter, whether it will successfully reverse Diet Pepsi's declining sales. Officials with the more successful Diet Coke said in a press release that they will continue using aspartame for the time being.

"The big question is does Coke follow," said Independent Branding Consultant Dean Crutchfield, per The Wall Street Journal, "Because that's the big brand, but they would be following in Pepsi's footsteps. There's a tension involved."

In addition to earning the FDA's continued approval, aspartame has also withstood scrutiny overseas. In 2013, the European Food and Safety Association completed a review that ruled out many potential links to health risks like cancer.