NEW YORK — Coca-Cola plans to run its first ad defending the safety of artificial sweeteners today, a move that comes as the company looks to stem declining sales of diet soda.
The print ad is set to run in USA Today in the Atlanta area, followed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday and the Chicago Tribune next week. It says that diet drinks can help people manage their weight and stresses the scientific evidence showing the safety of aspartame, which is more commonly known under the NutraSweet brand name.
Sales of diet sodas are falling at a faster rate than regular sodas in the U.S., according to Beverage Digest. Last year, for example, sales volume for Coke fell 1 percent, while Diet Coke fell 3 percent. Pepsi fell 3.4 percent, while Diet Pepsi fell 6.2 percent.
The declines come even though the Food and Drug Administration says aspartame may be safely used in foods as a sweetener, and the ingredient can be found in a wide array of other types of drinks and foods.
Still, some believe there may be effects from consuming large quantities of artificial sweeteners over a lifetime that haven't been detected. Artificial ingredients in general are also falling out of favor as people increasingly move toward organic and natural ingredients.
Caren Pasquale Seckler, vice president of social commitment at Coca-Cola, said the goal is to clear up the confusion around diet sweeteners. She said the company will gauge response in Atlanta and Chicago before expanding the push.