Pepsi Zero Sugar will soon have a different taste.
The sugar-free soda has introduced a new recipe that uses a “new sweetener system” that gives it a “refreshing and bolder flavor profile” compared to the previous iteration, Pepsi announced Friday.
Pepsi ( PEP ) didn’t disclose what specifically changed in the formula, though the company told CNN it has reduced the amount of caffeine, which now mirrors the amount in regular Pepsi ( PEP ). However, the company said customer research on the new flavor found it had a refreshing taste with a “real cola taste”.
The company “leveraged the best new beverage technology to upgrade our Pepsi Zero Sugar product to give fans the best-tasting cola in the sugar-free category,” Todd Kaplan, Pepsi’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
The new recipe has started to appear on store shelves, and the packaging design remains the same. Pepsi added a “new improved taste” badge to help customers identify the new formula.
Reddit users who discovered the new formula a few weeks ago said it “tastes a lot sweeter” and no longer has a “weird aftertaste” compared to its predecessor.
Pepsi is putting the marketing muscle behind the launch with new commercials airing during the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. It’s the first time in three years that Pepsi has aired an ad during the Super Bowl, after the company dropped its sponsorship of the highly watched halftime show last year.
Pepsi Zero Sugar’s tweaked formula comes about a year after the refreshed Coca-Cola Zero Sugar recipe debuted. Coca-Cola did not reveal what specific changes it made, but noted that the new version has a “more refreshing and delicious” taste, and its packaging has also undergone a makeover.
From a sales standpoint, Pepsi Zero Sugar struggled against arch rival Coke Zero Sugar. According to Beverage Digest data provided to CNN, Pepsi’s version has taken up less than 1% of all soda sales — while Coca-Cola has steadily increased its market share over the past five years to nearly 4%.
“Pepsi couldn’t be more pleased to also switch to Coca-Cola Zero Sugar,” Duane Stanford, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, told CNN. “The Pepsi Zero Sugar reformulation is a line in the sand that says it’s time to seriously compete for a share of the most important cola segment today.”
He added that “reformulation is necessary for effective competition,” because customers like sweeter colas.
This is the second shakeup in Pepsi’s portfolio this week. Pepsi dropped Sierra Mist and replaced it with a new lemon-lime soda called Starry in an effort to better compete with Coca-Cola-owned Sprite.