Wegmans Says Goodbye To WPOP Soda Due To Health Concerns

Shoppers at Wegmans are probably familiar with the grocery chain's wide selection of store-brand products, ranging from pasta and frozen pizza to pantry staples like flour and olive oil. However, it seems they'll have to say goodbye to one Wegmans brand favorite: the soda referred to as W Cola or WPOP, which the store has sold since at least the 1990s. For some shoppers, it has served as a more affordable alternative to Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

This week, the Upstate New York-based chain posted a sign at one of its Rochester locations stating that it would be pulling its store-brand soda from shelves, citing concerns over the pop's artificial ingredients, aspartame, and high-fructose corn syrup. After the photo was shared by local news outlet Rochester First, the company released a statement confirming and explaining its decision.

The family-run business reiterated its motto of "Food you feel good about," and stated that it's committed to "helping customers live healthier, better lives through exceptional food," and that the artificial ingredients present in the soda go against its core ethos. The company added that it would not be producing more of the cola, and would sell out its current inventory through the end of the week.

Health concerns over aspartame and high-fructose corn syrup

Aspartame, the artificial sugar alternative, was approved for consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration way back in 1974. Given its lower calorie count, the sweetener is commonly found in diet drinks like Diet Coke and Pepsi Zero Sugar. While the safety of the ingredient has been contested for decades, recent studies have suggested that such artificial sweeteners may be linked to cancer. In July 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially labeled it a "possible carcinogen" but noted that occasional consumption should not pose a risk to most consumers.

High-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener produced by adding enzymes to corn starch to convert naturally occurring glucose to fructose, or fruit sugar, has been linked to various health issues, including diabetes and fatty liver disease (per Healthline). The biggest concern, however, is the prevalence of the ingredient in many processed foods, which can result in people consuming excess amounts of the sweetener without even realizing it, hence posing a risk to their health.

Health experts agree that, like any sugar, both additives should be consumed in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends that most people should limit their intake to 36 grams of added sugar per day. Wegmans' private-label cola, meanwhile, contains 43 grams of added sugar per 12-ounce serving. Whether or not the specific types of sweeteners are unhealthy, the amount of it does go against expert recommendations. Still, Wegmans has not indicated that it would be taking other brands of soda off its shelves.