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Aspartame-free Diet Pepsi to hit shelves next week

By Marilyn Malara
Pepsi beverage products line the shelves at the King Soopers supermarket in Lakewood, Colorado. PepsiCo Inc. will unveil their new, aspartame-free Diet Pepsi products Monday. Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI
Pepsi beverage products line the shelves at the King Soopers supermarket in Lakewood, Colorado. PepsiCo Inc. will unveil their new, aspartame-free Diet Pepsi products Monday. Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- PepsiCo will unveil its revamped Diet Pepsi product Monday, less than four months since announcing it will no longer use controversial sweetener aspartame.

Bloomberg reports the company began experimenting with different recipes for the popular soft drink two years ago amid customer concerns about aspartame's safety.

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"The mouthfeel had to be in line with what customers expect when they get that silver can," Pepsi senior vice president Seth Kaufman told the outlet. "We obviously wanted to do this in the context of a phenomenal-tasting Diet Pepsi that our consumers will know and love because it's very similar to the Diet Pepsi they've been drinking."

The sweetener's replacement is a combination of sucralose and acesulfame potassium, or Ace-K. Sucralose is the main ingredient of Splenda and is 600 times sweeter than sugar, or about three times as sweet as aspartame, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The second ingredient, Ace-K, is about 200 times sweeter than sugar and is often combined with other sweeteners, FDA says. It's mostly used in frozen sweets, candies, drinks and baked goods.

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The move is reportedly part of Pepsi's efforts to appear sensitive to consumer concerns. "We frankly would not be good business people if we didn't listen to consumers," Kaufman told Wall Street Journal.

But the push is also a response to sales volume of the diet beverage, which fell 5.2 percent last year according to Beverage Digest. Competitor Diet Coke reportedly experienced a 6.6 percent decline in sales volume.

Kaufman said he's proud of the product's upgrade as consumers become more health-savvy. Although aspartame is being replaced with different man-made ingredients, the company believes there won't be backlash.

"It took us a lot of time but we've nailed it," Kaufman said.

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