If you want a larger variety of diet Pepsi sodas, you are apparently about to get your wish.
If you want less sugar in that bottle of regular Pepsi, you are probably going to be disappointed.
Executives at PepsiCo unveiled this week their 2025 Sustainability Agenda.
Part of those plans calls for improved water efficiency, reduced greenhouse gases, and zero landfill waste.
There are also plans for a $100 million investment to help 12 million women and girls around the world.
The goals for the $63 billion company also include using less sodium and saturated fat in PepsiCo’s food products from brands such as Frito Lay.
“Companies like PepsiCo have a tremendous opportunity — as well as a responsibility — to not only make a profit, but to do so in a way that makes a difference in the world,” said PepsiCo Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi, in a press statement.
However, the provision in those goals that has received the most attention this week is the part involving the sugar content in the company’s popular beverages.
Some stories touted Pepsi’s plans to cut sugar and calories in their drinks to help tackle obesity.
However, nutritionists interviewed by Healthline said the sugar goals are somewhat misleading and won’t do much to reduce obesity and diabetes in the United States.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s a small step,” said Susan Weiner, a registered dietitian-nutritionist and CDE certified diabetes educator.
“They’re trying to make themselves out to be like they’re health advocates before the public realizes they’re not,” added Katie Ferraro, a registered dietitian and assistant clinical professor at the University of San Diego, and the University of California, San Francisco.
Less sugar or more variety?
In its report, PepsiCo officials say the company will be offering “healthier food and beverage choices.”
For sodas, it specifically states that at least two-thirds of PepsiCo beverages will contain 100 or fewer calories from added sugar per 12-ounce serving by 2025.
Currently, about 40 percent of Pepsi beverages reach this standard.
The company added there will be an “increased focus” on “zero and lower calorie products.”
Officials from PepsiCo did not respond to Healthline’s request for clarification and comments on these particular goals.
Ferraro said it appears the company may plan to simply sell more diet and low-sugar beverages rather than reduce the sugar content of its main line beverages such as Pepsi and Mountain Dew.
She noted that in sodas every 15 calories is the equivalent of a pack of sugar, so a 100-calorie drink would have more than six packs of sugar.
That is above the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) of six teaspoons of sugar per day.
Ferraro added that sodas are not usually sold in 12-ounce servings. Most are 16-ounce to 20-ounce bottles.
That brings a person up to as much as 150 to 175 calories loaded with the equivalent of 10 or 11 packets of sugar.
“This is not moving in the right direction,” said Ferraro.
Health or marketing?
The nutritionists are also dubious of the motives here.
As part of its 2020 sustainability commitments, Coca Cola officials announced it will eventually offer low-calorie or no-calorie options in all its markets.
The nutritionists point out that the Pepsi and Coca Cola plans have also been released as campaigns and launched to institute taxes on soft drinks to help pay for the associated healthcare costs.
This month, WHO officials called for taxes of 20 to 50 percent on all sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks, vitamin waters, lemonade, and sweetened iced tea.
The obesity epidemic in the United States and around the world has also cast a spotlight on the amount of sugar in people’s diets.
“I think they had to do something,” said Weiner.
Water is better
Ferraro says sodas are basically just water and sugar.
They don’t contain any vitamins or other healthy nutrients.
“There is nothing beneficial in sodas,” she said.
On top of that, the human body digests liquid calories differently than solid calories.
Among other things, the digestive process of liquid calories leaves people with a hungry feeling. So, they tend to consume more calories after drinking a soda.
“We want people to eat their calories, not drink them,” said Ferraro.
“Sodas take the place of eating healthy food,” added Weiner.
Weiner said when she does a food history of her clients, she specifically asks what they drink with their meals. A large glass of orange juice with breakfast, for example, can add sugar and calories to the diet.
“Often, people aren’t aware of the calories they’re drinking,” she said.
Weiner also said ingesting sugar can cause inflammatory ailments inside a person’s system.
“It wreaks all kinds of havoc in the body,” she said.
Both nutrition experts said water is a far better alternative when you’re thirsty.
Their contention is backed up by a study published last week on the benefits of replacing diet beverages with water for obese women with type 2 diabetes.
The nutritionists point out that water quenches your thirst better than soda. It also has zero calories and zero sugar.