Coca-Cola changes taste of Zero Sugar to be more like Coke

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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Dive Brief:

  • Coca-Cola is launching an updated version of its Coca-Cola Zero Sugar which tastes more like its iconic namesake beverage, the company said in a statement and blog post. The new version uses the same ingredients, so the labeling and nutritional information will not change.
  • The updated Coca-Cola Zero Sugar will begin hitting shelves in the U.S. starting in July, with full distribution in August. In addition to the taste, the Atlanta beverage company is redesigning the packaging with the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar in black script on top of a red background.
  • Coca‑Cola Zero Sugar, which launched in 2005, was reformulated in 2017 to bring its taste even closer to Coca‑Cola. Since then, the brand has consistently delivered double-digit growth, according to the beverage company.

Dive Insight:

In much the same way plant-based meat companies are tweaking their offerings to make them taste more like the real thing, beverage giant Coca-Cola is doing the same thing with its no-sugar cola. 

Coca-Cola has a vested interest in creating a no-sugar variety that mirrors its sugar-laden offering as a way to keep people associated with the brand. Consumers are drinking less soda as part of a broader effort to cut their sugar intake, and increasingly no sugar offerings are a more popular option.

If consumers decide they want to drink less soda with sugar, and a no-sugar offering has the same flavor as the original, they are more likely to turn to their preferred brand. Sales of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar have been a bright spot for Coke, and the company no doubt is hoping the new flavor profile will attract more customers to the product. The new version is already on shelves across Europe and Latin America, and will roll out globally during 2021.

“In order to continue to drive growth of our diets and lights category, we must keep challenging ourselves to innovate and differentiate just as other iconic brands have done,” Natalia Suarez, senior brand manager for Coca-Cola’s North America operating unit, said in a statement. “The consumer landscape is always changing, which means we must evolve to stay ahead.”

No-calorie Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame K. Finding a sweetener that can replace sugar’s texture and taste has been difficult for companies. Some companies have used aspartame, but many consumers stopped drinking diet soda because of concerns over the health impact of the artificial ingredient.

Coca-Cola seems to have found the right ingredient mix for its no-sugar products. According to Euromonitor International data cited by The Wall Street Journal, Diet Coke had 35% of sales in the $22 billion global diet category in 2019 and Coke Zero Sugar had 22%.

Coca-Cola also is making a big change in the packaging it uses for Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. The new can has the same design as its its popular Coke soda, but uses different colors and the words “zero sugar” to indicate the absence of the sweetener. The new, simpler packaging is smart in that it keeps the brand, which is trying to emulate regular Coke, with the same design scheme as the original — but gives it just a bit of its own identify to stand out on store shelves.



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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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