Why Soda Companies Are Leaving ‘Diet’ Out of their Beverage Packaging

A common occurrence in recent times at stores where soda is sold is different brands leaving out the word ‘diet’ from their diet soda packaging.

Many soda brands have replaced the word “diet” with “zero sugar” in their products, primarily because the former is out of fashion for Millennials and members of Generation Z, especially.

Brands including Canada Dry, Schweppes, 7Up, A&W, and Sunkist now label their diet drinks “zero sugar.” For other brands that still retained the ‘diet’ packaging, including Dr. Pepper, they have a separate product line with the ‘zero sugar’ label.

“Younger people just don’t like the word ‘diet,’” Greg Lyons, chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Beverages North America, said during the Beverage Digest Future Smarts conference earlier this month. “No Gen Z wants to be on diet these days.”

In 2016, the ‘zero sugar’ label was adopted by Pepsi, rebranding Pepsi Max with Pepsi Zero Sugar.

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Coca-Cola adopted the zero sugar branding in 2005 with Coke Zero. The Baltimore Sun published a story explaining that Coke Zero’s “marketing is geared to a demographic, such as young people and the most macho of men, who see a stigma attached to the word diet.”

Jim Watson, a senior beverage analyst at Rabobank, told CNN Business that ditching the word “diet” creates a “gender-free way to talk about the same topic,” as the term “‘diet’ definitely got taken over as something for women.”

Though the diet soda segment is still far smaller than the market for regular carbonated soft drinks, which was $28.2 billion last year, the former is growing much more quickly than the latter.

According to CNN, diet soda sales are up about 19.5% from 2018, compared to just 8.4% for regular soda in the same period, making it an attractive segment for soda makers seeking growth.

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