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Todd Hartley

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I'm With Stupid: Artificially Creating Pepsi's Next Big Mess

Posted: 04/ 9/2012 8:26 pm

I'm not usually one to jump on the latest food fads. For instance, it took me until my mid-20s to catch on to such current trends as sushi and Mexican cuisine. Occasionally, however, a food product comes along that is all the rave, and I can't get enough of it. One example is the flavor "chipotle," which seemingly didn't exist a few years ago. Love it. Whoever invented chipotle wins.

The other fad I'm totally on board with, or so I thought, is Greek yogurt. There's one brand of Greek yogurt I get at our local grocery store that is so good you could serve it for dessert by itself. We go through about three pints a week at my house, and when I introduced my sister to it, she downed four pints in four days because she didn't know where to get it back East.

So I thought I loved all Greek yogurt. Thus, when I was at the store the other day and saw that a different brand was on sale, I scooped up six of the single-serving cups in various flavors. They weren't my usual brand, but they were Greek, and the labels didn't have any red flags like "lite" or "sugar-free," so I thought I had nothing to be concerned about.

After dinner that night, I popped open a black cherry yogurt, dug right in... and it was awful. I mean, it wasn't so bad that I didn't finish it, but I disliked every spoonful.

While eating the foul concoction, I noticed that the label on the cup had a small emblem declaring that the yogurt was "naturally sweetened with stevia." I checked the ingredients. Sure enough, sugar was in its usual spot, right there at No. 2, but way down the list was something called stevia.

I don't know what stevia is. For all I know it could be natural, but that apparently doesn't make it good. Furthermore, it doesn't need to be there because the yogurt already has sugar as its second ingredient.

And that brings us to the point of this rant.

I like cola. Coke, Pepsi, RC, whatever. But every cola in its pure, undiluted, sugary form is so sweet it leaves a film on your teeth. For years now, I've complained to anyone who will listen that someone ought to make a regular cola with half the sugar and, most importantly, no artificial sweeteners.

See, here's the thing: I, like many people, despise artificial sweeteners. And when I say "artificial," I basically mean anything that isn't sugar or honey. Saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, stevia. Doesn't matter. If it's a zero-calorie sweetener, it's artificial, it makes things taste bad, and it probably causes cancer if you inject enough of it into a laboratory rat.

Recently, Pepsi launched a new product called Pepsi Next, and when I first heard about it I was excited, because I was told it had half the sugar and half the calories of a regular Pepsi. Finally, I thought. Then I read the ingredients. Sugar was still at No. 2, but down the list were aspartame and sucralose, commonly known by the brand names Nutra-Sweet and Splenda, vile artificial sweeteners and, for me, deal breakers.

Who is Pepsi Next supposed to appeal to? Even if it tastes just like regular Pepsi, there is a huge segment of the population, including myself, who will never try it because it has aspartame and sucralose. Other people, who are concerned about things like health and girth, won't buy it because it has sugar. I'm not sure who the target market is supposed to be.

I predict that Pepsi Next will be a colossal failure for Pepsi. It won't be as big a flop as New Coke was, but that's just because Pepsi's not as big as Coke. In all other ways, I really think this is going to be a monumental blunder that Pepsi will regret for years to come. They could have just taken out the sugar and made a product people wanted, but they had to go and screw it up with artificial sweeteners. Good luck with that one, Pepsi.

Oh, by the way, the Greek yogurt I was talking about? The one that tastes so good you'd swear it was milked from Zeus' own cow? The brand name is Greek Gods, and the flavors to get are honey and honey-vanilla. I think it's made in Washington state. If you can find it at your store, try it. Trust me, you will be totally on board with this particular fad.

Todd Hartley still has all of his teeth. Take that, sugar! To read more or leave a comment, please visit zerobudget.net.