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Dr Pepper’s latest gambit: 60 calories a can

NEW YORK — Americans are cutting back on both regular soda and diet soda. So Dr Pepper is testing something in between, with natural sweeteners.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group said Wednesday it plans to test versions of its Dr Pepper, 7Up, and Canada Dry sodas this year that have about 60 calories a can with only naturally derived sweeteners. That’s less than half the 150 calories in a can of regular Dr Pepper but more than the 0 calories in the diet version.

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The sodas would be sweetened with sugar and stevia, rather than the artificial sweeteners used in traditional diet sodas or the high-fructose corn syrup used in most regular soda.

The beverage industry is trying to figure out ways to stop a years-long decline in US soda consumption.

In particular, companies including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are worried about a recent acceleration in the decline of diet sodas. Executives blame the pullback on people’s concerns about artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame. More broadly, soda makers are trying to address an ongoing movement away from ingredients people feel aren’t natural. Stevia is a natural sweetener that some say has a slightly bitter aftertaste. As a result, it is often used with other sweeteners.

On Wednesday, Dr Pepper reported a quarterly decline in sales volume, but its profit beat expectations with the help of higher prices and cost improvements.

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