In an effort to retain consumers who want to cut back on their sugar intake, Coca-Cola is replacing Coke Zero with Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, according to The Wall Street Journal. The switchover on store shelves will happen nationwide in August.
This is the latest move by Coca-Cola to boost expansion and awareness of their non-sugary drink options. Coke Zero Sugar has no calories, no sugar and a caffeine load comparable to Coke Zero. According to Coca-Cola’s latest earnings report, sales of low and no-calorie drinks are on the rise.
- The ingredients in Coke Zero and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar are the same, but the company says it is adjusting the “blend of flavors” to make it taste more like the original (full sugar) Coke. It will also look more like the original soda, featuring a red circle on the can.
The investment in R&D to update Coke Zero to Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is all about branding. The company wants to make it crystal clear that if you’re trying to avoid sugar, this is the drink for you.
This is a move to help balance the dropping sales of Diet Coke, a trend affecting many diet soda manufacturers. The demographic that previously purchased Diet Coke by the case is now turning to “healthier” alternatives in an effort to avoid aspartame. As such, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar isn’t being marketed as a diet beverage, but rather as one without sugar. Never mind that it, too, is sweetened with aspartame.
The pushback from Coke Zero loyalists in response to Thursday’s announcement was highly visible on social media. A quick search of #CokeZero on Twitter brings up thousands of consumers voicing their disappointment, even anger, at Coca-Cola for dropping their favorite drink. Many tweets also make comparisons to the disastrous launch of New Coke in the 1980s, urging the soda maker not to repeat history.
It is possible that Coca-Cola Zero Sugar could go the way of New Coke. However, if overseas sales of the revamped soda are an indication, it will likely prove to be a strong earner for Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola Zero Sugar has been a strong seller in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America this past year, with double-digit growth.
The addition of the word "sugar" to the label is a unique idea. Historically, the words you don’t want associated with a product are not part of the branding. In the late 1970s, many cereal manufacturers dropped the word "sugar" from their brand names to distance themselves from the ingredient. Coca-Cola is playing the opposite strategy, hoping consumers will look twice and see it has zero sugar.