Photo by Tom Sharrow/

For years now, as consumers and governments have become increasingly aware of the dangerous amount of sugar and carbs in the modern diet, the big-name soda brands and other food industry giants have been scrambling to meet new regulations and a demand for healthier options. The unprecedented pushback against these products have been born out of desperation: obesity epidemics around the globe have necessarily brought an outraged public to the doorstep of the industry’s worst offenders.

Pepsi’s Shift Away from Sugar

In 2016, the World Health Organization released a report linking sugary drinks and overconsumption of sugar to rising obesity in rich and poor countries alike. In it they encouraged a tax on sugary drinks, the likes of which had already been successfully implemented in some U.S. cities.¹ PepsiCo responded with a plan to drastically cut down on the amount of sugar in its products over the course of the next ten years. These promises were driven, they admitted, by changes in consumer demand and pressure brought on by the new research.²
The company, which owns a number of non-soda brands such as Naked Juice and Tropicana, also tried shifting marketing resources and shelf space away from Mountain Dew and Pepsi and focusing more on their waters and other non-soda products.³ Though executives feared the company had overextended itself and abandoned its core products, analysis of the recent dip in the stock markets and Pepsi’s steady growth over the last several quarters suggests that the reallocation of its resources may not have been in vain.4 As time goes by, it seems the company will rely less and less on its namesake product and similar sodas.

Sugar Titans on the Ropes

Indeed, with people and governments everywhere responding to the growing research, vast decreases in sugar consumption are on the horizon. Coke, equally frightened by these developments, resorted to a public contest offering a million dollars to anyone who comes up with the zero calorie, all-natural sugar substitute.5 Considering the potential benefits of such a miracle product, however, some say the prize isn’t really enough.
The reality is that soft drink sales have been in a decade-long decline, and both Pepsi and Coke have been forced to acquire and advertise healthier subsidiary brands like Dasani, Smartwater, LIFEWTR, and KeVita.6 The push against sugar has been a long time coming. As industry titans are forced to reorganize their profit portfolios, one can only hope that the momentum lasts.


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