—Mark Prus, Marketing Consultant NameFlashSM

I do a lot of branding and naming work…and so when I see an issue that confuses me, I usually assume it confuses consumers as a whole. In this case, having done some work in the artificial sweetener category, I can assure you that people are confused.

The artificial sweetener category used to be simple…if you wanted sugar at a restaurant, there was a white or tan sugar packet in the condiment holder (often branded by the establishment!). If you wanted an artificial sweetener, well there was saccharin in the pink packet (Sweet ‘N Low®). Then came aspartame, and you could find it in the blue packets (NutraSweet® or Equal®). About 12 years ago sucralose was introduced, and we knew it as Splenda® in the yellow packets. Life was simple. Choose your sweetener based on color.

Well, life became more complicated about a year ago (leave it to the marketers). NutraSweet and Domino Sugar introduced NutraSweet Pink and Yellow. Interestingly NutraSweet Pink is “100% saccharin free.” And the NutraSweet Yellow contains cane sugar!

No longer was sugar in the white/tan packets, saccharin in the pink packets, aspartame in the blue packets and sucralose in the yellow packets. Are consumers confused? You betcha. Was this an intentional “head fake” by the manufacturer? You betcha. The consumer thought process of color selection in artificial sweeteners could not have been more obvious. In this case, taking advantage of a well-known consumer color paradigm is not only immoral, it may have health consequences as well.

Recently Merisant, who markets Equal and Pure Via brands, announced that they will start selling “the four leading zero-calorie sweetener "colors" under the Equal and Pure Via brand names.” Interestingly, it appears that pink Equal will contain saccharin and yellow Equal will contain sucralose. At least somebody respects the consumer!


My suggestion on how to handle this intentional color confusion? Support the original brands…if you like the taste of saccharin in the pink sweetener, always buy Sweet ‘N Low. If you like the taste of sucralose in the yellow sweetener, always buy Splenda. Stick to the original brands with the original colors and eventually the manufacturers will have to acknowledge that the consumer cannot be fooled and will drop the low-selling color knock-offs!