Pepsi’s mid-calorie soda aims to win back drinkers

NEW YORK (AP) — Pepsi hopes to win back soda drinkers with a compromise.

Some people don’t like the calories in regular soda, but loathe the taste of diet. So the nation’s No. 2 cola company is rolling out “Pepsi Next,” a mid-calorie drink that has about half the calories of regular Pepsi at 60 calories per can.

The cola, which is slated to hit store shelves nationally by the end of March, is Pepsi’s biggest product launch in years. The drink comes as people increasingly move away from sugary drinks to water and other lower-calorie beverages because of health concerns. It’s also an attempt by Pepsi to revive the cola wars against Coke and others.

Pepsi Next isn’t the first drink to try and hit the sweet spot between diet and regular cola. Dr Pepper rolled out its low-calorie Dr Pepper Ten, which has 10 calories. The company said the drink, which has sugar unlike its regular soda, helped boost its fourth-quarter sales.

But coming up with a successful “mid-calorie soda,” which has more calories, has been more challenging for beverage makers. In 2001, Coke rolled out “C2” and Pepsi in 2004 introduced its “Pepsi Edge,” both of which had about half the calories of regular soda. Both products also were taken off the market by 2006 because of poor sales.

“The problem was that consumers either wanted regular soda or a diet drink with zero calories — not something in between,” said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.

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