Is Diet Coke losing its fizz?

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Diet Coke, the second-most popular soft drink  in the country, may be losing some of its pop.

During a conference call with analysts  Tuesday, a Coca-Cola executive noted that the soda brand was ‘under a bit of  pressure’ because of people’s concerns over its ingredients, alluding to the  growing wariness of artificial sweeteners in recent years.

Steve Cahillane, who heads Coca-Cola’s North  American and Latin American business, noted that the issue wasn’t specific to  Diet Coke, but that many diet foods and drinks in the U.S. are facing the same  concerns.

Losing its appeal? Diet Coke, the second-most popular  soft drink in the country, is ‘under pressure’ due to people’s concerns over its  ‘unnatural’ ingredients

‘We believe very strongly in the future of  Diet Coke,’ Mr Cahillane nevertheless stressed, noting that the drink was still  the number two soda in the U.S, after knocking Pepsi from that perch in 2010.

The company still sells twice as much regular  Coke as Diet Coke. Mr Cahillane also noted that the company is investing in  boosting Diet Coke’s performance, pointing to recent promotions with singer  Taylor Swift as an example.

Soda has been under fire from health  advocates for several years now, and Americans have been cutting back on sugary  fizz for some time.

But in a somewhat newer development, diet  sodas are falling at a faster rate than regular sodas, according to Beverage  Digest, an industry tracker.

Last year, for example, sales volume for Coke  fell one per cent, while Diet Coke fell three per cent. Pepsi fell 3.4per cent,  while Diet Pepsi fell 6.2per cent. Those  figures aren’t going unnoticed in Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters.

This summer, the company launched its first  ad addressing the safety of aspartame to ease concerns people might have. It has  also distributed fact sheets on the topic to its bottlers and retailers who sell  Coke products.

Aware of the shift: Coca-Cola is now working on  producing sodas made with natural, low-calorie sweeteners

The Food and Drug Administration says  aspartame may be safely used in foods as a sweetener, and the American Cancer  Society has said that most studies using people have found that aspartame is not  linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Still, the broader trend in the U.S. has been  toward foods and drinks people feel are natural or organic.

And Coca-Cola is clearly aware of the shift;  the company is working on producing sodas made with natural, low-calorie  sweeteners. It also launched a version of its namesake drink sweetened with  stevia in Argentina this summer. Stevia comes from a plant of the same  name.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola said that sales volume  for regular, full-calorie Coke rose two per cent in North America in its latest  quarterly results reported on Tuesday.

Coke Zero, which is made with artificial  sweeteners and targeted more toward men, rose five percent. The company didn’t break out Diet Coke’s performance, but overall soda volume  for the region was flat.