It seems that the beverage manufacturers have to continually defend the health & safety of their products in order to keep it selling. Most recently, energy drink manufacturers like Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar had to defend the caffeine content of their products as well as provide a recommended daily dosage. Prior to that, Coca-Cola ran a campaign calling for unification behind calorie consumption, to defend general claims that soft drinks contributed to obesity. The latest defense comes from Diet Coke, defending the safety of their chemical sweetener: aspartame.
Here’s their print ad that they ran in some American publications.
While the safety debate continues to polarize consumers and manufacturers alike, it’s interesting to note the timing of the advertisement itself. Aspartame controversies have been around since the 1970s when diet soda products have also been around, why the need to make a statement to calm consumers down? It turns out that Diet Coke’s sales are slipping – faster than the average rate of decline itself. When a category is in decline, the best case scenario is that your product is outperforming the category benchmark. That is, your product itself is still growing and outpacing category performance or at least declining at a slower rate than the category. It seems that Diet Coke is down 6% and is losing sales at a faster rate than the category. This in effect makes this advertisement a campaign to stimulate sales, where calming aspartame fears is a means to an end. If Diet Coke is able to change the negative consumer perception toward aspartame, it looks like they may be able to reverse their fortune.
In the meantime, Pepsi’s portfolio of products have not done anything to unite and combat against calories nor dispel the fears toward diet products. Pepsi may be content to let Coca-Cola do the heavy lifting on these media campaign, while reaping the benefits of success if the campaigns work. After all, if consumers regain confidence for aspartame as a sweetener, Diet Pepsi also stands to see a sales increase.
Also important to note is that Pepsi may see this momentary weakness of Diet Coke and look to restore their position as the Number 2 soda behind Coca-Cola. If that is the goal in mind, they will indeed need to concentrate their resources on Pepsi, rather than join up with Coca-Cola to combat the negative perception toward aspartame.