With soda sales fizzling, Pepsi is hoping to lure back customers with a drink that may appeal to those who want the flavor of a regular soft drink, without the high calories.
At the end of March, Pepsi will launch what it is calling Pepsi Next. The new cola will have 60 calories, about half that of a regular Pepsi, but presumably more Pepsi flavor than Diet Pepsi.
“Pepsi is trying to basically come up with a good tasting mid-calorie cola which will keep the Pepsi consumers in the Pepsi franchise,” John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, told ABC News.
Sicher says this has been tried before. In 2001 both Coke and Pepsi introduced mid-calorie colas.
“Coke’s was C2, Pepsi’s was Pepsi Edge,” said Sicher. “They did not work then. Pepsi seems to believe that times are different now and consumers might want to try this kind of beverage.”
The beverages were taken off the market after five years because of low sales. Soft drink sales fell from 10 billion cases in 2005, to 9.4 billion in 2010, according to Beverage Digest.
Even as overall sales fell, diet soft drinks captured a bigger share of the soda market. The move by Pepsi, the nation’s number two cola company, drew a qualified thumbs-up from Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has criticized high-calorie soft drinks.
“It is certainly healthier that regular Pepsi,” said Jacobson, “but not as good as diet Pepsi or water or seltzer.”
Jacobson added, “It sounds like they’re trying everything they can to boost sales (but) for people who are concerned about calories, which presumably is the target of this product, there are many other alternatives. So will this newest beverage gamble pay off?”
Beverage Digest’s Sicher isn’t sure. “My mother taught me never to predict the future,” he said. “I respect Pepsi’s market research. I think time will tell, I think we will know in nine to 12 months whether it will be successful or not.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.