Coca-Cola says aspartame is safe

Coca-Cola says aspartame is safe

The Coca-Cola Co's attempts to stem fresh declines in diet CSDs with a campaign in support of artificial sweeteners could rebound to further damage sales, according to an analyst. 

Coca-Cola last month launched a print ad defending the use of aspartame in its diet brands. The ad said aspartame is a “safe, high-quality alternatives to sugar”.

However, CLSA's Caroline Levy said today (3 September) the company risks repeating the mistake of Campbell Soup Co, which saw sales for its regular soup fall after the launch in 2010 of lower-sodium versions. Levy said the move alerted “otherwise content consumers” to high levels of salt in Campbell's regular products.

“While the scientific basis for aversion to artificial sweeteners may be thin, we worry that Coca-Cola may be giving pause to consumers who hadn't been concerned before,” the analyst said.

Coca-Cola's diet CSD sales stayed in mid-single digit declines in July and last month, Levy said, citing SymphonyIRI figures. Meanwhile, the company's sugared CSDs increased by low-single digits after a year of negative growth.

Levy also warned that government campaigns in Mexico to reduce consumption of sugary CSDs could drag their growth in the country. The ads are similar to ones used by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in health campaigns. 

Bloomberg has tried to ban the sale of large-sized sugared beverages in New York.