Pepsi has announced that it will use Splenda sucralose in its reformulated Pepsi One cola to create a full-flavour cola with only one calorie.
"Consumers today are performing a balancing act. They're looking for great-tasting foods and beverages while also trying to limit their calorie intake," said Katie Lacey, vice president of carbonated beverages for Pepsi-Cola North America.
"That's why we're increasing our focus on diet soft drinks this year, with the reformulation of Pepsi One as a major part of our efforts," she added.
PepsiCo said it was planning an extensive marketing campaign this summer, including new products and specialised in-store merchandising, to push its entire diet soft drink range.
The new look Pepsi One is set to be launched in the US this month and will be available in single-serve 20oz bottles and 2-litre bottles as well as 12-packs and 24-packs of 12-ounce cans. The firm said it expected to distribute nationally by the end of April and is planning a huge advert campaign under the slogan: "Oneify".
The move by PepsiCo comes just two months after the group's main rival, Coca-Cola, announced it would launch a new version of Diet Coke using Splenda sucralose - made exclusively by UK ingredients firm Tate & Lyle and marketed by McNeil Nutritionals - as part of a plan to woo health conscious consumers starting to snub its carbonated drinks portfolio.
Coca-Cola has also just announced it will launch Coca-Cola Zero, a new, zero-calorie cola drink sweetened with a blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium, across the US in June.
Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola saw sales of their trademark fizzy cola drinks slow down throughout 2004, and this left Coca-Cola, without the product diversity of PepsiCo, struggling to regain its footing at the beginning of 2005.
Splenda's prominent position in both companies' product revamps, and subsequent marketing campaigns, has also given greater prestige to the ingredient as a product and as a consumer brand.
Tate & Lyle says Splenda is now used in over 4,000 products worldwide, and booming sales of its sucralose product gave the UK firm the necessary leverage to re-enter the FTSE 100 index at the end of 2004, after a seven-year break.
McNeil Nutritionals also announced today that it would launch a new promotional website aimed at healthcare professionals who have patients interested in making Splenda part of their weight management programme.
The site, which displays Splenda product samples, highlights how small changes in diet and physical activity can make a big difference in weight control.
However, Splenda's advertising campaign has met fierce opposition from some. The US Organic Consumers Association and sugar association have called Splenda ads misleading by making a connection between the sweetener and natural sugar.
Even so, the only current obstacle to Splenda's growth appears to be a lack of manufacturing capacity; Tate & Lyle has said it does not plan take on any new US customers until the Alabama plant extension in 2006 and the new Singapore plant in 2007 come on line.