NEW YORK — When it comes to the calories in diet soda, Dr Pepper thinks 10 is the new zero.
Starting next month, the country’s No. 3 soft drink company plans to roll out 10-calorie versions of five of its biggest soda brands: 7-Up, Sunkist, Canada Dry, RC Cola and A&W Root Beer. The drinks are an extension of Dr Pepper Ten, which was launched last year as a better-tasting alternative for men who don’t like the image or taste of diet soda.
The new 10-calories sodas are being marketed to both men and women.
Unlike traditional diet sodas that use only artificial sweeteners and have zero calories, Dr Pepper Snapple Group says its 10-calorie sweetener mix has just enough high-fructose corn syrup to overcome any reservations people might have about the weak or cloying taste of diet drinks. And by taking away most of the calories – a can of regular typically has about 150 calories – the company is washing away much of the guilt.
Dr Pepper isn’t alone in trying to redefine the image of diet soda. With soda frequently blamed for fueling obesity rates, executives at Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. also are convinced that producing better-tasting diet sodas can reverse a steady decline in overall soda consumption that began in 1998.
Larry Young, chief executive of Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper Snapple Group, is confident the new lineup of 10-calories drinks can win back soda drinkers who quit or cut back to reduce their calorie intakes. Young noted Dr Pepper Ten already has done that since its launch last year.
The drinks will hit shelves nationwide at select outlets in January, and the company says one of its biggest ever ad campaigns will follow in March.
Earlier this year, PepsiCo introduced a mid-calorie version of its flagship soda called Pepsi Next that reduces the amount of high-fructose corn syrup by using artificial sweeteners.
Coca-Cola Co., meanwhile, has been more noncommittal about mid-calorie sodas. Sandy Douglas, who heads Coca-Cola’s North America business, said at the same conference that the company didn’t see the category generating “a tremendous amount of share and growth.”