Mid-calorie beverages target mainstream

Cola launches by PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are highlighting a resurgent category seeking to fill a gap between near-zero calorie drinks and full-sugar offerings.

Pepsi?s Edge and Coke?s C2 have approximately half the sugar, carbs and calories of their flagship cousins ? achieved by reducing the quantity of high fructose corn syrup in each bottle or can and replacing it with a low-calorie sweetener. Both companies claim this enables the calorie count to be cut in half without a noticeable taste alteration.

With Pepsi and Coke seeking to revitalise their soda sales, the new colas are aimed at the estimated 100 million North American consumers who are concerned about the high calorie and sugar content of regular soft drinks, but do not favour the taste of diet sodas. Pepsi said it aimed to keep consumers loyal to soda that might otherwise drift into teas, waters and juices.

The mid-calorie offerings are not the first of their kind as Coke sells a mid-calorie cola in Denmark, and Pepsi launched a mid-calorie soda in the US in the 1990s that failed.

Coke North America president Donald Knauss said he expected some regular Coke drinkers to move to C2, but it was unlikely to affect its Diet Coke sales.

The arrival of improved-taste sweeteners coupled with health conscious consumers is driving the current activity. The two companies are also going head to head in the US orange juice market with mid-calorie versions of Minute Maid (Coke) and Tropicana (Pepsi).

?This is about gradual changes to what is perceived as the standard,? said brand expert Peter Wennstr?m. ?If people are not health-motivated enough to go for low-carb products, the mid-carb proposition takes one step toward them by offering a ?carb-conscious? product where you don?t have to sacrifice taste or convenience.?

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