In “let’s unleash more corn syrup and fake sweeteners” news, PepsiCo has announced the upcoming launch of a “mid-calorie beverage” known as Pepsi NEXT, which will offer 60% less sugar and 60% fewer calories than regular Pepsi. Iowa and Wisconsin are scheduled to be the first two
victims states to try the new carbonated concoction. Despite the forthcoming pomp and circumstance, this is far from a new concept. And, above all, it is yet another beverage chock-full of unhealthy chemicals.
This is actually the company’s third attempt at a “mid-calorie beverage”. 1995′s Pepsi XL –with 50 percent less sugar and 50 percent fewer calories than regular Pepsi — cost $1.5 million to produce and $8 million to advertise, and was far from a hit with consumers. And, just seven years ago, they launched 70-calorie Pepsi Edge, which fizzled (sorry, you knew I had to insert that pun somewhere in this post!) after just a year on the market.
Not surprisingly, PepsiCo execs are hyping up Pepsi Next as a “game-changer”. According to Massimo F. D’Amore, Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, “Pepsi Next is a next-generation cola. The way we were formulating products 10, 20 years ago is different from how we formulate them today, so I think it’s time we give it a try. The sweetener system is different; some of the ingredients are different. It’s a great-tasting product.”
While details are not out yet, trade magazine Beverage Industry reports that Pepsi Next “would likely be sweetened with a mixture of high-fructose corn syrup, sucralose, ace-K and aspartame, while another source said there could still be some tweaks to the sweetener blend.”
And, so, really, we see nothing new here. If anything, Pepsi Next combines the worst of both worlds: empty calories and unhealthy artificial sweeteners. Sucralose — also known as Splenda — has been shown to negatively affect gut microflora and decrease absorption of many minerals (by increasing fecal pH levels). Acesulfame potassium, meanwhile, has had many alarming carcinogenic links, and researchers have valid reasons as to why studies determining its “safety” have been deeply flawed.
Just like its fellow regular and diet varieties, Pepsi Next will also contain carcinogenic caramel coloring and be housed in BPA-lined cans. Even more disturbingly, as BNet’s Food Fight columnist Melanie Warner pointed out last month, “[these flavor] enhancers are needed in such small quantities that they fly under the labeling radar [and] can be identified on ingredient lists only as ‘artificial flavor,’ a category that could include a million and one other things.”
The best thing Americans can do for their health is cut down on their intake of all sodas, regardless of their caloric or sugar values. The United States has the highest per-capita consumption of soft drinks in the world (we’re talking almost a gallon per week per person). Ireland, the second country on that list, consumes just slightly more than half the soda we do. America runs on high fructose corn syrup, and our bodies and healthcare system ultimately pay the price while the soft drink industry laughs all the way to the bank.
Pepsi Next is nothing but another attempt to profit from cheap and questionable ingredients under the guise of “helping” Americans make slightly better choices. Hopefully, it will be PepsiCo’s third and final strike.
Thank you to Michele Simon for research and editing assistance with this post.