Don't expect the return of an old favorite in the diet cola aisle to spark 1980s era-type sales growth.
"I think the volumes will improve. As to whether they will be positive or not remains to be seen," PepsiCo (PEP) - Get PepsiCo, Inc. Report Vice Chairman and CFO Hugh Johnston toldTheStreet when asked about his sales prediction for aspartame-sweetened Diet Pepsi, which is being put back on retailer shelves in September after consumer outcries over a new sweetener combination introduced last year. Aspartame-free Diet Pepsi will continue to be offered, while Pepsi MAX will be re-introduced to U.S. consumers as Pepsi Zero Sugar.
Weak sales of the new Diet Pepsi weighed on the company's second-quarter sales in its North American beverage business. Revenue for the segment rose 1% from the prior year to $5.1 billion, while volume fell 1%, PepsiCo reported Thursday.
The company managed to grow operating profit in its North American beverage business, however, due to cost cuts and new product introductions such as craft cola 1893, Aquafina sparkling water, Mountain Dew Black Label, Propel flavored waters and Naked cold pressed juices.
"The volumes were down for Diet Pepsi as they have been for a number of quarters, and that's true not just for Pepsi but also the category as well," pointed out Johnston. PepsiCo went on to deliver a second-quarter adjusted earnings increase of 6% from the prior year to $1.35 a share, easily beating Wall Street estimates of $1.30 a share, due to solid results at Frito-Lay, Quaker Food and in most international markets. Net revenue fell 3.3% year over year to $15.4 billion, held back by a four percentage point hit due to volatile currency conditions. Analysts had expected revenue of $15.37 billion.
The company lifted its full-year earnings outlook to $4.71 a share from a previous outlook of $4.66. Revenue excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, which PepsiCo refers to as organic revenue, is still seen rising 4% on the year.
Recently, shares rose 2% to $108.
Diet Pepsi volume declined 5.8% last year, according to data from Beverage Digest. Sales trends worsened in the first quarter. Diet Pepsi volume fell 10.6%, almost double the 5.7% decline for Diet Coke, which stayed with aspartame as its primary sweetener.
Said Beverage Digest in a recent note, "PepsiCo's aspartame-free formula was a significant gamble with a large cash-generating brand that has so far not worked to plan."
The decision to bring back old school Diet Pepsi marked a rare product miss for the beverage giant. Last August, Diet Pepsi in the U.S. launched with a blend of sucralose and acesulfame potassium as sweeteners as opposed to the long-used aspartame. Aspartame has been linked to cancer in lab mice, among other potential health risks that have caused more health-conscious consumers to abandon diet colas from PepsiCo and arch-rival Coca-Cola (KO) - Get Coca-Cola Company Report in recent years.
But the taste of new Diet Pepsi was quickly panned by consumers on social media. And they ultimately voiced their opinion at the supermarket.