The New Tactic Pepsi is Using to Become Your Favorite Soft Drink

Cans of Pepsi

Cans of Pepsi | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Soda is delicious. It’s bubbly, sweet, and refreshing. But, as almost everyone knows, it’s incredibly unhealthy. In fact, there have been studies linking sodas and sweetened soft drinks to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year. The excess amounts of sugar and little (if any) nutrition in the standard soft drink has helped fuel the obesity epidemic, and as a result, many people are getting cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.

Pepsi — one of the biggest soft drink and soda makers in the world — has a plan in the works to help, however.

Like its counterpart Coca-Cola, Pepsi can see the writing on the wall: Soda consumption — let’s call it “drinkership” — is down. People are becoming increasingly aware that soft drinks and sugar consumption are doing huge amounts of damage to their health, despite the best efforts of the industry to prove otherwise, and are jumping ship to other options.

Pepsi, Coke, and others are now focusing considerable resources on selling viable alternatives, like seltzer or sparkling waters. It’s a simple matter of diversification in order to shore up long-term viability. People aren’t buying your product as much as they used to, so you have to offer them what they are buying.

But Pepsi isn’t totally giving up on its flagship brand of cola. Instead, Pepsi’s executives have put together a plan that they hope will make Pepsi a more attractive choice to consumers, while also helping tackle problems related to obesity and climate change. Pepsi, by 2025, plans to considerably lower the amount of sugar in its beverages, and lower the calorie counts as well.

A “healthy” soft drink?

Soda cans seen in a refrigerator

Soda cans in a refrigerator | iStock.com

This isn’t to say that Pepsi is necessarily trying to create a “healthy” soda, but rather, simply making the shift and evolving to a changing market. According to a report from Reuters, the company’s plan is to make at least two-thirds of its drink selections into slightly healthier options. Specifically, by 2025, they want to drinks to have 100 calories or fewer from added sugar per 12-ounce serving.

Pepsi already had a previous goal to reduce sugar content by 25% over the next three or four years, in certain markets.

Interestingly enough, the announced changes come hot on the heels of a lawsuit that was recently filed against PepsiCo by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which sued based on what it calls deceptive advertising and shady marketing tactics involving the company’s Naked Juice brand. Certain types of Naked Juice can contain more sugar than a can of soda, and because of that, the lawsuit is looking to push the company toward more honest labeling.

This was the same consumer group that previously sued Coca-Cola for the deceptive marketing around Vitaminwater. Clearly, soda producers have already been feeling the heat for the sugar content in their products. Pepsi seems to be making some proactive steps to keep pace with its sugar reduction goals.

A step in the right direction

Soda and energy drinks

Soda and sugar-filled energy drinks | iStock.com

The biggest unknown here is whether Pepsi’s changes will have the desired effect. From a business standpoint, the company is trying to retain and win over new customers — and there’s nothing wrong with that. The market is changing, and Pepsi is evolving as well. But for consumers, the question is whether these changes will make any impact on the choices they make with their wallets.

Will people who avoid sugar-heavy soft drinks give them another shot, under the assumption that they’re now “healthier”? Probably not, but we won’t really know the truth until after we get some data once the changes have been implemented and we can see the effects.

Still, Pepsi’s taking a step in the right direction. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try and curb sugar content in their products, though consumers can be notoriously fickle when it comes to changes to their favorite brands — take New Coke as an example from the past, or even when Sun Chips (which is owned by PepsiCo) had the audacity to put its product in a more environmentally-friendly package.

So, Pepsi’s actually taking a bit of a risk here. You don’t want to rock the boat, especially with a legacy brand.

Ultimately, it’ll come down to individual choices. People are still probably going to veer away from sugary drinks in the future, but Pepsi might be able to keep more of them around by lowering sugar and caloric content. We’ll just have to wait and see. But if you’ve already successfully vanquished your sweet tooth? You’re probably better off just sticking to your new beverage of choice.