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The next emerging soda segment: the mid-calorie soda

Mid-calorie sodas use natural sweeteners and regular sugars to maintain the taste profile

Has anyone heard of Pepsi Next, Dr Pepper Ten, or Coca-Cola Life?

These new mid-calorie sodas have started appearing on some retailers’ shelves in the past year. Pepsi Next and Dr Pepper Ten in the United States, and Coca-Cola Life in Argentina.

Tapping into health trends where consumers are increasingly focused on calorie intake, these new soft drinks use a mixed sweetener to lower the calorie content.

It’s important to note that mid-calorie sodas is not the same as zero calorie soda like Coke Zero or Pepsi Max. Zero calorie sodas are just repositioned diet sodas, where the sweeteners are identical. Diet Coke and Coke Zero both use aspartame for sweeteners.

Mid-calorie sodas however, use natural sweeteners and regular sugars to maintain the taste profile. For example, Pepsi Next’s sweetener is a blend of high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium. As such, these beverages reduce the calorie content but never completely eliminate calories.

The objective is to give the consumer the full taste and flavour of the soda – but with fewer calories. This helps to reduce consumer’s guilt when drinking soft drinks so they do not completely walk away from the soda beverage segment.

As with all new beverage segments, it takes some time to catch on with consumers. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Dr Pepper are monitoring consumer response, trial & repeat rates, and sales source of volume in test markets where these new beverages are offered.

Results to date have been lukewarm. While mid-calorie soft drinks have increased category value, these gains have not been sustained. This suggests that consumers are willing to try new beverages, but are not ready to convert from full calorie sodas just yet.

It will take some time to perfect these beverage’s taste profiles and ramp up marketing efforts to drive adoption, but mid-calorie sodas are here to stay.

As soda consumption and sales volume decreases, it is imperative for manufacturers to adjust the formulation to maintain the soda taste with fewer calories.

Given the negative perception associated with soft drinks and calories, beverage manufacturers are desperately exploring alternatives to extend soda’s life cycle. Carbonated soft drinks still represent the largest value for manufacturers and are a significant part of the grocery retailer’s beverage category.

When the mid-calorie soda formulation has been perfected, you can expect your beverage manufacturer counterpart to bring this to you as an option to maintain soda sales. Your consumers will also reward you with their grocery dollars.

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