Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper Snapper Reported Second Quarter Sales and Profits Showing Consumers Prefer Stevia and Sugar over Aspartame, the Artificial Sweetener in Most Diet Varieties–But Scientists Are Still Debating About Sugar

Share this

Last week, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapper all revealed their second quarter earnings report. Coca-Cola’s soda sales were flat in North America and its revenue fell 1.4 percent, despite a sales volume increase in other parts of the world. PepsiCo suffered a two percent fall in both profit and soda sales volume. Dr. Pepper Snapper reported an increase of over one percent of revenue and its soda sales volume climbed two percent. These numbers reflected consumers’ attitudes on different types of sweeteners.

For the decline in profits, Coke and Pepsi both blamed the weak market for diet soda. The artificial sweeteners in diet soda were supposed to win over consumers who are concerned over the negative impact of high sugar intake. But the safety and quality of artificial sweeteners became a stronger concern, causing a continuous and accelerated fall in diet soda sales. As the new report revealed, the sales volume for regular Coke actually rose one percent in North America, while Diet Coke sales dropped further.

Aspartame is the artificial sweetener used in most diet sodas for Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper brands. It has very little nutrient value, and thus is nonfattening. And it is much sweeter than sugar gram for gram, which is interesting because the two amino acids used in forming this substance do not taste sweet. Individuals with phenylketonuria, a genetically transmitted disease, are unable to break down one of the two amino acids in aspartame and thus must avoid it. Explicit warnings are placed on such products.

FDA considers aspartame to be safe for the vast majority of consumers, and approved the sweetener in 1981. Although a few cases of adverse side effects have been attributed to aspartame, exhaustive reviews have failed to show an unequivocal and direct connection between the symptoms and the sweetener. Coke ran a national print ad, “The safety of aspartame is supported by more than 200 studies over the last 40 years,” in the summer 2013. The continuous declining in diet soda sales shows it is an uphill battle to assure consumers of the safety of this artificial “chemical.”

Dr. Pepper Snapper’s soda sales volume increase was largely due to the brands Canada Dry, Peñafiel (in Mexico) and Schweppes. The latter two offer carbonated water in addition to sugary drinks. All three brands do not have artificial sweeteners, but use sugar or high fructose corn syrup instead.

For low and mid calorie soda, all three companies are working hard. Dr. Pepper Snapper introduced ten lineups in 2011 which use only small quantities of high-fructose corn syrup, and from March this year started to test soda that has 60 calories per can with only the natural sweetener stevia and sugar. Coke and Pepsi both failed before with non-natural sweeteners— “C2” from Coke in 2011 and “Pepsi Edge” from Pepsi in 2005. Coke released “Coca-Cola Life,” which contained stevia in Argentina and Chile last year, and will market it in UK this autumn. Pepsi Next does not use aspartame and has 30 percent less sugar than regular Pepsi.

Stevia is  rising start as a natural sweetener. This non-caloric sweetener is found in the leaves of Stevia rebaudian (one species in the genus Stevia in the sunflower family). Native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America, local populations have used these sweet leaves for centuries. It has a slower onset and longer duration in comparison to sugar. With negligible effects on blood glucose, it is attractive to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets. Stevia causes a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations and therefore is often used together with sugar.

Sugar seems to be the devil people know. But how much is really known? It became a part of the human diet after the domestication of the sugarcane in 8,000 BC. “Sugars” include honey, sucrose (table sugar), high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate and agave nectar. There is a direct relation between intake of dietary sugars and the dental caries (decay and crumbling of a tooth or bone) across the life span.

Other than these, not much can be agreed on regarding the role of sugar and its recommended intake. The linkage between high sugar intake and obesity and other health complications is inconclusive, according to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), the world’s largest food science organization. At IFT’s annual meeting in New Orleans at the end of June, a discussion panel stated that government and health organizations’ recommendations for sugar intake have varied significantly based on different studies and different methodologies to evaluate those studies.

While sugar intakes in the US have decreased over the past 10-15 years, obesity has continued to increase. The North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, has undertaken a project to better understand the interplay between sugar in the diet and health outcomes and to identify research gaps.

Some of the questions ILSI plans to address with respect to sugar and health are: What is the long-term effect of a reduction in sugar intake on body weight and/or fatness in overweight/obese adults and in children? Do dietary sugars impact how the body accumulates fat differently than other energy-yielding nutrients? What is the effect of sugar intake on satiety and hunger mechanisms? What are the mechanisms in the brain linking sugar consumption to a reward system/insulin and glycemic levels (“addictive behavior” or “sugar addiction”)?

These answers will aid the emergence of an evidence-based and more meaningful sugar intake recommendation. Still beverages–non-carbonated drinks such as energy drinks, fruit juice and flavored water–have seen a quick rise in market shares since they are deemed healthier than the carbonated sugar bombs. But it is not unusual for natural fruit juice, with no sugar added, to have as much sugar and calories as traditional Coke at the same volume. A deeper and more comprehensive understanding of sugar will help a concerned and confused public, and impact the future of all sugary drink industries.

By Tina Zhang



The Star



USA Today

The Wire

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Science Daily


Fracking Can Be Banned by Local Communities, Says New York’s Highest Court


Local communities have the power to use local zoning laws to ban heavy industry, such as oil and gas production and fracking, according to New York’s Court of Appeals Monday. The state’s highest court ruled in a 5-2 decision that the towns of Dryden and Middlefield could ban such industry within municipal borders.

“Today the Court stood with the people of Dryden and the people of New York to protect their right to self determination,” said Dryden Deputy Supervisor Jason Leifer. “It is clear that people, not corporations, have the right to decide how their community develops.”

The ruling effects more than just Dryden and Middlefield. More than 170 New York municipalities and many communities in Colorado, Ohio, Texas, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and California have passed or are attempting to pass measures against fracking, and the ruling is considered to significantly empower those citizens to establish bans or moratoriums on unwanted industry.

Read more: One Little US Town Is Showing the World How a Small Community Can Stand Up to Big Oil and Gas and Stop Fracking

“Heavy industry has never been allowed in our small farming town and three years ago, we decided that fracking was no exception,” said Dryden Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner. “The oil and gas industry tried to bully us into backing down, but we took our fight all the way to New York’s highest court. And today we won.”

Communities have faced daunting odds in their attempts to assert self determination when industry interests are at stake.

“This decision by the Court of Appeals has settled the matter once and for all across New York State and has sent a firm message to the oil and gas industry,” said Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney at Earthjustice, who worked on the case. “For too long the oil and gas industry has intimidated and abused people, expecting to get away with it. That behavior is finally coming back to haunt them, as communities across the country stand up and say ‘no more.’ Earthjustice is proud to have stood with, and fought on behalf of, one such community.”

“Town by town, New Yorkers have taken a stand against fracking. Today’s victory confirms that each of these towns is on firm legal ground,” said Helen Slottje, an Ithaca-based attorney whose legal research inspired New York’s fracking ban. “The oil and gas industry tried to take away a fundamental right that pre-dates even the Declaration of Independence: the right of municipalities to regulate local land use. But they failed. The anti-fracking measures passed by Dryden, Middlefield and dozens of other New York municipalities are fully enforceable.”

Read more: New York Votes to Not Drill or Frack

Dryden began its organized opposition to oil and gas projects in 2009 when it began to learn about the technique the companies planned to use to extract oil and gas–fracking. Dryen residents organized under the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition (DRAC) and convinved the town board to prohibit oil and gas development activities, including fracking.

An interested oil and gas company sued the town weeks later. Dryden argued that they had the right to make local land use decisions under the provisions of the New York State Constitution, including where oil and gas interests were involved. In 2012, a trial court agreed, and a mid-level appeals court also found for the residents in 2013.

“Today’s ruling shows all of America that a committed group of citizens and public officials can stand together against fearful odds and successfully defend their homes, their way of life and the environment against those who would harm them all in the name of profit,” said Leifer.

Dryden – The Small Town that Changed the Fracking Game

By James Haleavy