Editor's Plate: All Things in Moderation

Create low- (but not no-) calorie beverages (and other food products) without fear of failing.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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It was interesting to see Dr Pepper Snapple Group introduce a low- (but not no-) calorie Dr Pepper Ten (see our product post: Dr Pepper Snapple Group Introduces Dr Pepper Ten, For Men Only) last fall, and more recently to see the company credit much of its fourth-quarter financial success to the new product.

There are a number of things in that product launch that amuse me, that fly in the face of what appears to be current thinking. It's been marketed to men, not just primarily but even at the virtual exclusion of women. Its sweeteners are good old aspartame and acesulfame potassium (ace-K), not that trendy stevia stuff. And those 10 calories come unapologetically from high-fructose corn syrup, not "pure cane sugar."

I'm an all-things-in-moderation kind of guy. I sweeten my coffee with half sucralose, half sugar. With half-and-half as the creamer, of course. I drink 2 percent milk, sometimes 1 percent, but never skim and never whole. And I love Whopper Juniors, downsized restaurant meals and tapas. So Dr Pepper Ten is right up my alley.

Now, in the past month, comes a news story that Pepsi is considering another mid-calorie cola; it's probably rolling out in most major markets as you read this (see our June 2011 news release on Pepsi Next).

Food and beverage manufacturers who target this mid-calorie – or what SGF refers to as the 'right calorie' segment – have been successful.

– James Kempland, Sweet Green Fields

We're almost as guilty as some of the other general media in writing about Pepsi Next. It's hard not to point out Pepsi-Co has tried it before; Coca-Cola too. There was a tone to many stories about the launch. What makes Pepsi think it will succeed this time? Aren't there more interesting products to develop? Admittedly, my first reaction was: Why can't Pepsi take their Next product to 10 calories?

At 60 calories per can, Pepsi Next will pick up where Pepsi Edge left off. The new and the old Pepsi mid-calorie colas have about half the calories of a regular Pepsi. Pepsi Edge debuted in 2004, a few years after Coca-Cola Co. had debuted C2, with the same half-the-calories thinking. Both were quietly canned in 2006 because of poor sales.

I do question the marketing (I doubt it was product development) decision to make Pepsi Next 60 calories and not 10. But I won't beat up PepsiCo for trying. I give the team credit for two things.

First, any effort to wean consumers off full-calorie sodas and onto something lighter deserves kudos. Let's face it: Diet sodas, as good as they already are, are not being embraced by all the people who need to lose weight.

Second, it's OK to go down swinging. We have a motto at our publishing company, Putman Media: It's OK to fail, just get it over quickly and move on. Or something like that. I extend that same courtesy to PepsiCo.

There seems to be a fair amount of current success in mid-calorie products. Tropicana's Trop 50 seems to be doing well. Skinny Girl Cocktails are about-half-calorie versions of popular mixed drinks. I spread Hellmann's Light Mayonnaise on my ham sandwiches. (But, despite its success, I don't drink light beer.)

In our product development story this month, Stevia seeps into beverages, James Kempland, vice president of marketing for stevia marketer Sweet Green Fields, says mid-calorie products are the future of beverages. "Blending all-natural stevia extracts with other forms of sugar, such as fructose or sucrose, helps to create excellent-tasting products. Food and beverage manufacturers who target this mid-calorie – or what SGF refers to as the ‘right calorie' segment – have been successful."

So congratulations to Dr Pepper Snapple. And good luck to PepsiCo. (Can Coke be far behind?) Experimentation and risk-taking is how we progress, and probably how we will beat this obesity epidemic.

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