Testing More 'Tens'

Dr Pepper rolling out more low-calorie versions of its sodas

PLANO, Texas -- After promising early results from Dr Pepper Ten, a low-calorie version of its flagship soda, Dr Pepper Snapple Group is giving the same treatment to five of its other sodas, CEO Larry Young told the Wall Street Journal.

Starting as early as January, the company will start testing 7 Up Ten, Sunkist Ten, A&W Ten and Canada Dry Ten in Columbus, Ohio, Des Moines, Iowa, and central Pennsylvania. It will also test RC Ten, a cola, in Chicago, Evansville, Ind., and Des Moines, the report said.

The move reflects high hopes that Dr Pepper Snapple has for its proprietary blend of no-calorie artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup to produce sodas that have a fraction of the calories of, but taste closer to, the regular versions. The combination of sweeteners yields 10 calories per eight-ounce serving compared with 100 calories for regular Dr Pepper. The company is trying to appeal to consumers who stopped drinking sodas because of the high calories, but didn't like the taste of diets.

Dr Pepper Snapple's deeper push into low-calorie sodas also underscores the U.S. soda industry's continuing effort to grow after seeing sales volume decline each year since 2005, according to the report, citing Beverage Digest. Coke and Pepsi have in recent years introduced new zero-calorie sodas Coke Zero and Pepsi Max using a different formulation of artificial sweeteners, to try to win back soda drinkers who don't like diets.

Pepsi early next year also plans to launch Pepsi Next, a midcalorie soda with about 40 calories per eight-ounce serving as part of a stronger entry to attract lapsed soda drinkers, said the Journal.

Dr Pepper Snapple lacks the broad international presence of its larger rivals, the report said, leaving it most exposed to the U.S. soda market, where it gets the bulk of its sales. But Dr Pepper does play in the faster-growing segment of flavored sodas, which may get a jolt from low-calorie drinks.

Dr Pepper Snapple hopes to replicate what it hails as successful results from last year's test and recent national launch of Dr Pepper Ten on October 10. In tests, Dr Pepper Ten made up 6% of total sales of Dr Pepper products, while also increasing sales of regular and diet Dr Pepper. Cherry Dr Pepper sales, meanwhile, were flat, a positive indication that the low-calorie soda wasn't stealing sales from other versions of the drink.

Dr Pepper is still parsing results from the national launch.

Dr Pepper spent about $10 million in additional marketing on the Dr Pepper Ten launch, which gained notoriety for advertisements that promoted the drink as a diet soda for men. The other flavors will be marketed to a broader audience, targeting men and women ages 25 to 49, to keep the male-centric advertising with the flagship drink.

Young declined to discuss how much will be spent on tests of the new products, but they will include television, radio and other marketing that was used when Dr Pepper Ten was tested. The tests will run about six months.

The tests won't affect Dr Pepper Snapple's plans to revitalize some of the smaller brands in its portfolio, as the company did by taking Sun Drop national earlier this year, the report added.

Dr Pepper, a brand of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Plano, Texas, is available in Regular, Diet, Caffeine Free and Cherry varieties. DPS is a leading producer of flavored soft drinks, marketing Dr Pepper and more than 50 other beverage brands across North America and the Caribbean.