Diet Pepsi's New Sweetener Fallout Follows History of Soda Bets That Fell Flat

PHOTO: PepsiCo Inc. replaced aspartame in Diet Pepsi with sucralose and acesulfame potassium in Aug. 2015.PlayPepsi
WATCH Diet Pepsi Swaps Sweeteners in Response to Declining Sales

Diet Pepsi's move to replace its artificial sweetener -- from aspartame to sucralose -- in August has prompted a flurry of negative comments online from customers who aren't big fans of the new taste, but it's not the first time a soda company has taken a risk by making a change to its recipe.

Aspartame, also found in NutraSweet and Equal, has been a source of controversy, even though studies have yet to link the artificial sweetener to negative health effects in humans. Even so, Pepsi says it was responding to consumers' concerns by deciding to move to a less controversial artificial sweetener. But some customers are tweeting that they don't like the new taste.

PHOTO: PepsiCo Inc. replaced aspartame in Diet Pepsi with sucralose and acesulfame potassium in Aug. 2015.Pepsi
PepsiCo Inc. replaced aspartame in Diet Pepsi with sucralose and acesulfame potassium in Aug. 2015.

In a conference call on Tuesday, PepsiCo Chairwoman and CEO Indra Nooyi was asked about consumer reaction to the aspartame-free Diet Pepsi. She answered that it was "too early to tell you exactly how the consumer is reacting because our belief is that you've got to wait a few cycles to see what the purchase-repeat adoption cycle is." Nooyi said the company might have more information at the end of its fourth quarter.

A spokeswoman for PepsiCo declined to comment to ABC News and referred to Nooyi's comments.

Here are some other times when a soda company's bet on something new didn't quite hit a sweet note.

New Coke

In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company introduced the New Coke, which had a different formula of the popular soft drink for the first time in 99 years. But after 79 days and reportedly receiving 1,500 angry calls a day, the company returned to the original formula. The original formula has been called Coca-Cola Classic ever since.

Longtime Coca-Cola adviser Harold Burson recalls in a Coca-Cola video that testing showed consumers preferred the new taste before the launch, but company execs didn't realize consumers had an emotional bond to the original formula. Burson said then-CEO Roberto Goizueta called him into his office and said the company was going to create a new Coca-Cola formula.

"You could either change a product or you could change the marketing," Burson said in the video. "I think the thing that influenced Roberto the most was he was a chemical engineer and he was in charge of the technology. And so just like a carpenter thinks a hammer and nail is the solution to every problem, you know, I think you jiggle a formula and that's the solution to that problem. And I think that's what drove him."

"To hear some tell it, April 23, 1985, was a day that will live in marketing infamy," states an article on Coca-Cola's website. "On that day, The Coca-Cola Company took arguably the biggest risk in consumer goods history, announcing that it was changing the formula for the world's most popular soft drink, and spawning consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen."

Crystal Pepsi

Crystal Pepsi, a clear version of Pepsi, was available from 1992 to 1993 in Canada and the U.S., which was long enough to get its own spoof on "Saturday Night Live" with a "Crystal Gravy" ad.

Despite its short-lived life, a fan movement has grown recently to bring back Crystal Pepsi, including crowd-funding petitions with the hashtag #BringBackCrystalPEPSI.

A spokeswoman for PepsiCo told ABC News today, "There is no news on Crystal Pepsi at this time. While there are some rumors about our plans out there we have not confirmed anything and have nothing to say on it at this time."

Jones Soda's Thanksgiving Dinner

In 2004, Jones Soda sold limited-edition holiday beverages inspired by Thanksgiving dinner and donated a portion of the proceeds to charity. The flavors were: Green Bean casserole, Mashed Potato and Butter, Cranberry, and Turkey and Gravy Soda.

Sprite Remix

Available from 2003, Sprite Remix was one of the Coca-Cola Company's forays into flavoring, with "Berryclear," "Aruba Jam" and "Tropical." Though the drinks developed a following with some customers, the company discontinued the line in 2005.

The Coca-Cola Company has experimented more than once with Sprite flavors. One of its more recent attempts is a "limited-edition" flavor created with basketball star LeBron James. First, the company created Sprite 6 Mix by LeBron James in 2014, featuring cherry and orange. Then, this past March, the company introduced Sprite LeBron's Mix with a new look and name.