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DALLAS - 7-Eleven is launching a calorie-free Slurpee today at most of its 5,300 U.S. stores, in hopes of attracting women, dieters and diabetics who avoid regular Slurpees, which contain about 330 calories.
The Dallas-based company tested the Diet Pepsi Slurpee in Tampa, Fla., and Detroit earlier this year.
7-Eleven sells 13 million Slurpees a month and hopes to increase that total by 12 percent to 14 percent with Diet Pepsi and a lineup of other reduced-calorie flavors, according to the Associated Press. Slurpees represent a small fraction of 7-Eleven's total sales, but about 60 percent of Slurpee buyers make other purchases.
7-Eleven has tried healthier Slurpees before. A low-calorie cherry flavor bombed in the 1990s.
"The problem was we didn't make it taste as good as a regular product," said John Ryckevic, who manages the Slurpee category for Dallas-based 7-Eleven.
In January, 7-Eleven added flavors from Kraft Foods Inc.'s Crystal Light line of drinks that have about one-third the calories of a regular Slurpee. A raspberry ice version has sold well, and 7-Eleven plans to introduce strawberry-kiwi in October.
Researchers at Pepsi, a unit of Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, worked for nearly a year until they found a combination of three non-sugar sweeteners that produced the Slurpee texture, according to the AP.
Still, the diet version dispenses best at a few degrees higher than sugared mixes, so 7-Eleven had to send technicians out to adjust dispensing machines in thousands of stores. That delayed the Diet Pepsi Slurpee's debut by a month.