Don’t Be Duped by “Pepsi Next”



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During my pregnancy I’ve had to get creative with my non-alcoholic beverage choices. I was never a big drinker before getting pregnant, but when you’re out or have people over and everyone is enjoying a drink it’s nice to have something other than water.

There are some good non-alcoholic beers out there (PC Blonde & Becks) that I’ve been enjoying with a splash of OJ or cranberry juice. Costco has a good organic fruity bubbly drink that was nice over the holidays. Sometimes I treat myself to a ginger ale, and use fruit or citrus to flavor my club soda or water.

Being in tune with non-alcoholic beverages, I was intrigued when I heard that Pepsi’s new product: Pepsi Next contains no aspartame and includes stevia. I checked out their website, and was disappointed with what I found out.

Pepsi Next still contains high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar (26 grams or 5.2 teaspoons of sugar!), sucralose and caffeine. Canada’s version contains 30% less sugar than regular Pepsi, and has some stevia thrown in there for good measure. Because it contains less sugar, it also boasts fewer calories: 100 calories vs. 150 for regular Pepsi. In my opinion, Pepsi Next is not a healthy choice – I was duped.

The most frustrating part of my research was when I reached out to Pepsi and asked them for the other ingredients in Pepsi Next (other than stevia and less sugar). They responded within a couple days, and referred me to their website, which of course doesn’t list the ingredients; just some vague nutritional information. They probably know that just because their new product doesn’t contain aspartame it’s still not good for you!

If you’re really a pop lover I would try Zevia – a soda company I discovered while grocery shopping at Nature’s Emporium the other day. They have 15 flavors like Cola, Cherry Cola, Orange, Lemon Lime, and Ginger Ale to name a few. All of their flavors are 0 calories and contain no artificial sweeteners.



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The only questionable ingredient for me is the “caramel color” that is present is most of their flavors. I emailed a customer service rep from the company asking them if their caramel color contains 4-methylimidazol (a substance that is said to be carcinogenic in certain amounts).

Here was their response:

Hi Lauren,

Your question is a good one!  With a plethora of information on this topic, we understand your concern.

What is Caramel Color?  Caramel Color is the world’s most widely used food colorant.  It is used to impart color in numerous foods and beverages including breads, cereals, soy sauce, seasonings, and colas, among others.  Caramel Color is produced through the carefully controlled heat treatment of food grade carbohydrate.

What is 4-MeI?  4-methylimidazole (aka: 4-MeI) is a substance that is naturally produced by caramelizing, broiling, grilling, cooking and roasting foods of all kinds – often right in consumers’ own kitchens and grills.  You have likely heard of 4-MeI due to the State of California’s widely reported Prop-65 initiative, which has placed labeling requirements on products that exceed certain limits of this substance.   California is the only state in the U.S. to regulate 4-Mel.  The current 4-MeI labeling threshold in California is based on a “No Significant Risk Level” or “NSRL” of 29 micrograms per day.

What’s in Zevia?  Zevia uses a Type IV, low-4-MeI Caramel Color for 8 of our 15 flavors; the other flavors contain no Caramel Color.  This Caramel Color allows us to meet the stringent Prop-65 requirements in California – while still meeting the taste and aesthetic expectations of our consumers.  Specifically, these eight flavors contain less than 50% of Prop-65’s NSRL, making us fully compliant with the regulation.

Is California ‘right’?   Caramel color has been studied widely in the past 35 years and has always been deemed safe.  The FDA disagrees with California’s position, having granted caramel colors GRAS status after rigorous safety studies; and a scientific opinion from the highly-cautious European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published in 2011 that, relating to caramel colors, “The Panel concludes overall that the exposure estimates for … 4-MEI …  are not of concern”.   The California decision was made with little meaningful public hearing and limited scientific review.  Many in the scientific community find fault in California’s process after the great body of evidence suggests that caramel colors are indeed safe.

Zevia’s Commitment.  We want to ensure you that Zevia is continuously evaluating alternatives to further reduce and possibly eliminate 4-MeI levels in our products.   All ingredients in Zevia products are GRAS affirmed (Generally Recognized as Safe) according to FDA regulations, and safe for use in foods and beverages.

And just in case it helps, the following Zevia flavors available in Canada do not contain any Caramel Color –

  • Lemon Lime Twist

  • Orange

  • Black Cherry

  • Grape

We promise that we will continue to stay at the forefront of ingredient innovation and sourcing.  As consumers ourselves, we care deeply about the safety of our products for our family and yours.

Jae-Min Mandala
Customer Relations Manager 

Zero Calorie Soda 

Phone: 310.202.7000 x 221
Toll Free: 855-469-3842 (855.GO.ZEVIA)
Fax: 310.427.7185

I was satisfied with Jae-Min’s answer, and the next time I feel like a pop I’ll grab a Zevia.

What do you think of Zevia’s response? Would you try Zevia? Were you duped by Pepsi Next’s campaign as well?


2 Responses to Don’t Be Duped by “Pepsi Next”

  1. jules @ lesssugarnaturally July 1, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    I’m presently researching the Pepsi Next ingredients to add to my blog, and you’re right the US ingredients are not easy to find. The Canadian pepsi site says: The Canadian formula is naturally sweetened with 30% less sugar and calories versus the leading regular cola. The US formula has 60% less sugar and calories versus the leading regular cola and contains a blend of low calorie sweeteners. What is this blend???? Anyhow, that’s how I ended up here.

    I was going to tell you that you should try making your own pop at home. It’s really easy. I researched Zevia and while I’m sure it’s better than regular soda, it’s uses Reb-A which is a highly processed form of only a fraction of the stevia plant. Even the FDA states that Reb-A is not stevia. I love using plain SweetLeaf and adding it to fresh squeezed lemons and limes. I also like NuNaturals Vanilla in carbonated water. You can also try adding carbonated water with a splash of tart cherry juice concentrate, fresh squeezed lemon and stevia to taste. Those are my fave drinks (along with Kombucha, but you should probably wait until after baby for that).

    I have more details about stevia on my blog. You’re welcome to come by and take a look.

    • Lauren July 2, 2014 at 7:56 am #

      Thanks for the comment, and info about making your own soda! Those all sound like great ideas. Eating & drinking healthy definitely takes a bit more work, but it’s worth it! I will definitely check out your blog 🙂

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