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No Diet Soda at Your Local Store? Here’s Why

A person holds up a cake of diet coke.
Zety Akhzar/Shutterstock.com

If you seem to have noticed a shortage of diet soda on your store’s shelves, you might be inclined to chalk it up to recent supply chain issues. This lack of product, however, isn’t COVID-19 related at all.

Diet sodas are being phased out for zero sugar sodas, and it’s all about perception.

So what’s the difference between diet and zero sugar? Both have zero calories and zero sugar, so aren’t they the same? If you’ve ever taste-tested a Diet Coke and a Coke Zero Sugar, you know the answer is no. Diet sodas feature a lighter, more airy flavor than zero sugar drinks that often taste much more like the original product. So is the dwindling away of diet soda because it has been losing popularity? Not exactly.

Lisa Williams, PhD, an expert on global supply chain and logistics, explained that the word diet has become a negative term that younger shoppers no longer use and actively move away from. A zero sugar moniker has a more positive connotation, and brands have taken notice.

“The connotation of the word ‘diet’ is counter to everything Millennials and now Gen Z want in what they eat and drink,” said Jaime Schwartz Cohen MS, RD. “Eating less sugar is perceived as being healthier, so a product described as zero sugar resonates with them—even when it’s the same diet product with a new name.”

Basically, that diet soda shortage? It’s all about marketing. That doesn’t you won’t’ still be able to find diet sodas, either. They’re still available, but what you might be noticing might be more of a shift than a shortage.
Really, though, you don’t have to stick to either diet or zero sugar soda. There are tons of other options out there. Check out these carbonated beverages that are great alternatives.
Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »

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