What’s behind the Sodastream diet cola syrup flavor shortage?

I know this isn’t a “New Coke ” story, where consumers rise up to demand a product that has been discontinued be returned, but I’m curious what the story is behind the shortage I’ve noticed for Sodastream’s diet cola mix.
I’ve been looking for weeks now and as of July 21, 2023 it’s not available online in Sodastream’s store, Amazon, Target, or Walmart.

I thought it might have something to do with ingredients, but Sodastream’s diet cola syrup doesn’t contain aspartame, it uses sucralose as a sweetener.

I don’t think the shortage is political, since after the controversy with Sodastream’s West Bank factory in 2015, Sodastream moved to Israel’s Negev Desert.
SodaStream leaves West Bank as CEO says boycott antisemitic and pointless (Guardian Link)
And Sodastream was purchased by PepsiCo in 2018 (Beverage Daily 12-05-2018)

Then I wondered, is this another case of a consumer goods company saying there is a shortage related to supply lines and the pandemic which no longer applies, but they keep up the illusion to raise prices?

I know how big corporations have lots of methods to goose the quarterly earning numbers, could this be a gambit to raise the revenue for flavored syrups? I didn’t know, so I wrote Lauren Lieberman, the analyst who covers PepsiCo for Barclays and asked if she knew what the story was.

Lauren Lieberman for Barclays discussed PepsiCo (PEP) 2018 second-quarter results from PepsiCo Inc. with Bloomberg’s Vonnie Quinn on “Bloomberg Markets.
  • Did PepsiCO mention this at all in the earnings call? 
  • Is this a plan to push the Diet Pepsi brand vs Sodastream’s generic diet cola?
  • Did PepsiCO do it to increase revenue by artificially limiting a product?

 We have seen many consumer companies raising prices by claiming supply line shortages that are no longer real.  PepsiCo charges $1 or $2 more for the branded diet cola syrup than the Sodastream generic diet cola syrup.  

  • Is it about local distribution?
  • Is PepsiCo rewarding local stores to get people to come in and buy vs. buying online? 

 I’ve found a few for sale online in untraditional outlets like JCPenney, but with a limit of 3 per customer.  I live in San Francisco and have found some available in local stores like Ace Hardware, Staples and Kohls, with the same 3 bottles limit.   

I think the Sodastream diet cola formulation is VERY popular. Granted, this is based on my anecdotal experience, but if they ever showed you the data you could see if by limiting the Sodastream diet cola formulation they generate more revenue for the same volume.  (Of course because of GAAP, PepsiCO won’t break that down, but it might be interesting to see what it means if PepsiCO decides to permanently discontinue the Sodastream diet cola formulation. )

You might be interested to see that people at Ebay & 3rd party sellers on Amazon are hiking prices on SodaStream’s diet cola. One seller on eBay was selling it for $24.99 per bottle 

Now I don’t expect Lauren will respond, I’m just some half-human half-Vulcan who is having trouble getting his caffiene delivery system of choice. It’s not like there is no other option available. And limiting the supply of one product to promote another is a time tested marketing strategy. They likely want to see how strong is the consumer demand. Customers have written to the company wondering when it will return. They also must be hearing from retailers. If I wanted to venture onto Twitter I’d ask @PepsiCo directly, but I don’t want to encourage companies to be on Twitter.

But companies learn of consumer concerns in many ways, and I figured that if they google “Shortage of Sodastream diet cola” this story might pop up.
Maybe other PepsiCo financial analysts will wonder if this shortage will continue in the next quarter. Maybe their distributors are pushing it because local retailers love people coming into the stores.
“I demand Sodastream Diet Cola! Where is the supply? Ace Hardware? For pickup only? I’m on my way!”

You may be asking, why do I care? It’s personal. It’s not about flavor. Sodastream’s diet cola formulation caffeine delivery makes me feel good. This formula works great with my prescription drugs. It doesn’t make me jittery or aggressive, like diet Coke. The Sodastream Diet Pepsi formulation is okay, but still not the same. I’ve tried the Sodastream cola sugar version, Diet “Dr. Pete” and their “faux Red Bull” energy drinks. None give me the same positive feeling of being able to do things. To complete tasks. I don’t feel pulled in, but extroverted.

I doubt others have this same reaction, but maybe they have! Most people probably just want to buy the least expensive flavored diet cola syrup, and this one was it. PepsiCo shareholders don’t care what product is selling, as long as the revenue keeps going up. They DO care if consumers respond in a way that overall cuts into revenue. If PepsiCo can’t get the Sodastream users to switch to the more expensive Diet Pepsi syrup, by limiting the availability of Sodastreams generic diet cola, they might change tactics. But only if they hear from people, and see just how strong the demand is for the product.

If people are hunting all over their city to find a bottle for Sodastream Diet Cola in a local store or willing to pay $14 to $24 bucks a bottle to get it online, then maybe the product is not as fungible as they think it is.

I’ve cobbled together a supply of 5 bottles from JCPenney and Kohl’s. That will last me a few weeks, in the meantime I’m staying on the hunt, I just found a bottle in a Ace Hardware in Calistoga! It’s only 90 minutes away!

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