PepsiCo is creating a new diet beverage for fans of aspartame less than a year after pulling the artificial sweetener as part of a marketing move over safety concerns. The sweetener had been linked to cancer in lab mice, and industry executives blamed the decline in sales on concerns people have about aspartame. The August 2015 removal of the sweetener tested the theory that it was to blame for fleeing customers. But the move seems to have been a misstep, with the sales drop only "accelerating," the Wall Street Journal reports. The company will in September start selling the new Diet Pepsi labeled as "Classic Sweetener Blend," which will contain aspartame in its formula. Diet Pepsi will continue to be sweetened with sucralose.
Meanwhile, Pepsi MAX will be re-introduced to US consumers as Pepsi Zero Sugar and will still contain aspartame, reports the AP. The Journal sees that move as an attempt to mirror Coca-Cola Zero, a diet brand whose US volumes fell 3.3% in Q1 of 2016—to Diet Coke's 5.7% and Diet Pepsi's 10.6%. "Consumers want choice in diet colas, so we're refreshing our US lineup to provide three options that meet differing needs and taste preferences," PepsiCo said. As for choice, the Journal cites a March survey that found 42% of Americans avoid aspartame, but a growing 35% feel the same about sucralose. (Read more aspartame stories.)