Tuesday, March 21, 2006


PepsiCo, Inc. has pulled a fast one when no one was looking. Last week when I went to get my standard can of Diet Mountain Dew before lecturing in class, the can on the right is what I got. Diet Mountain Dew with the Day-glow green “Tuned Up Taste” logo on the can. I didn’t notice this at first until I tasted it. At first I thought I had a bad can, and got another one from the same vending machine. The “Tuned UP Taste” is lime. The lime flavor shows up as a strong aftertaste, and is more pronounced when the soda is warm. What crap! I thought maybe this is a promotion and will soon fade, but my last trip to the Hy-Vee and I found cases of the stuff. Checking my house stores I have two of the 12 can cases hiding next to the last 24 can case of wonderfully normal Diet Dew.

This seems to be a major product shift, and part of some plan. First, new art on the cans and new a flavor change. I’d bet my left sock monkey that this move makes the product cheaper to produce. I suspect the lime flavoring is there to cover up something else.

A quick inspection of the two different cans reveal some interesting differences. The “Tuned Up Taste” product has “natural flavors” listed higher in the order of ingredients. (Ingredients are list by volume or mass from highest to lowest amounts.) “Natural Flavors” can mean anything, form worm sweat to stuff whipped up in a lab kitchen. As long the flavor come from the environment and has been approved for food use. For example, you could use bananas in peanut butter, by extracting the complex chemicals and esters that make a banana a banana. Artificial flavors are chemicals that mimic a chemical or ester found in natural, just enough to fool your experience to suggest a flavor. Mostly you see this in candy and such.

After the “natural Flavors” the lists gets a little muddled, and I won’t bore you with an item-by-item description. Instead I will give you the 25 cents highlight tour, and my guess about what is going on. The old Diet Dew has aspartame listed fifth. The “Tuned” can has aspartame list seventh. The “Tuned” can also listed sucralose as the twelfth ingredient. Sucralose is a sweetener made famous by Splenda. Basically, it’s a sweet macromolecule that your body cannot digest or use, but it does taste sweet. Also, sucralose is heat stable so you can bake with it. This is a godsend for diabetics everywhere. Sucralose does have a slight aftertaste, but not as bad as aspartame. The taste is different however, so I suspect PepsiCo is trying to cover the taste with lime.

I don’t really like the new taste, but if the amount of aspartame is reduced maybe I will have to get use to it. I can’t keep feeding the aspartame tumor forever. I actually do worry about this because I drink A LOT of diet caffeinated soda.

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