Coca-Cola has launched a new Coke Zero drink

Coca-Cola announced the launch of a new Coca-Cola Zero Sugar drink, promising an “an even more delicious and refreshing taste”.

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Niharika Khatri
July 25, 2021 1:06 pm

In April 1985 the Coca-Cola Company made a mistake that it would remember for years to come. New Coke, an updated recipe, was introduced to the public. Focus groups testing the new taste had given Coca-Cola cause to be excited. New Coke was supposed to boost Coca-Cola sales even further and leave Pepsi behind in the dust. Instead of that bullish scenario, what happened has been described as the biggest blunder in marketing history.

Coca-Cola’s recipe is a trade secret. No patent has been filed for it since it would be made available to the public after being protected from imitation after a number of years. Although there have been slight changes to Coca-Cola’s original 1886 recipe, the company has endeavoured to keep the taste the same. Millions of bottles were given to Allied troops during World War 2. It is safe to say that Coca-Cola became a cultural phenomenon in the USA and rest of the world. Changing the recipe was a risky move.

New Coke was met with an immediate backlash. Thousands of calls from angry customers flooded into Coca-Cola’s call centers. People who felt strongly about keeping the old formula came together and formed protest groups. Letters were sent to Coca-Cola HQ telling them that the new recipe “sucked” and labelling the CEO as “Chief Dodo”. It was so bad that being the “New Coke” of something meant being a disaster in that field.

The Coca-Cola Company quickly realized their mistake. Within a few weeks they apologized to customers and brought back the old recipe. History has a habit of repeating itself. No doubt there will be executives on edge with the summer of 1985 on their mind as the new Coca-Cola Zero Sugar formula is rolled out. In 2021 we have the means to protest far more quickly and directly than ever before. Will Coca-Cola face a deluge of angry customers or will the new recipe vindicate them from the shame of 1985? Time will tell.

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Sefa Kozan
July 25, 2021 5:27 pm

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is loved by millions of people. Why would Coca-Cola play around with a formula that works so well? The average consumer will think the Coca-Cola Company is out of touch and doesn’t know what it is doing. In reality, however, this is a calculated move by the Company. In some respects their choice is limited and after some examination, I am more convinced that Company executives felt they had to make this move.

The first thing we need to look at is the incremental nature of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar’s change. How many people will remember that the drink’s formula was changed in 2017? Despite the worries of Coke Zero fans, the taste of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar was absolutely fine. There was no reformulation of the previous recipe, nor was there a completely different taste. So with that success behind them, another incremental change is not considered a leap into unknown territory.

Secondly, we need to understand Coca-Cola’s brand priorities. It wants to be associated with refreshment and great taste. Instead it is being associated more and more with high sugar, diabetes and obesity. Companies can go from being the ‘good guy’ to the ‘bad guy’. Right now, the Coca-Cola Company is the ‘bad guy’. An example that demonstrates this is Cristiano Ronaldo removing Coca-Cola bottles during a press conference; he was widely praised for this action.

This is why in some places that sell Coca-Cola you don’t even have the option of buying Coca-Cola Classic, that is, the sugary version. Regardless of Coca-Cola’s attempt to push sugar-free versions of its drinks to customers, millions of dollars of revenue come from Classic sales. I have a friend that will always drink Classic even though I recommend sugar-free options to him. There is never any room for negotiation!

Understandably Coca-Cola doesn’t want to alienate its Classic drinkers. So what does it do? It tries to make its Coca-Cola Zero Sugar taste as close as possible to Classic. Maybe by doing this, making the leap from Classic to Zero Sugar is less painful.

Coca-Cola will also be contending with sugar taxes in various countries. Small changes in price for the end consumer can mean huge changes in sales volumes. It would be better for the Company to get as many of its customers drinking sugar-free Coke.

A new formula for Coca-Cola Zero Sugar can appear like a disastrous move but as I alluded to earlier, lots of strategic planning has gone into this. From an environmental standpoint the Company’s brand doesn’t look good as well as from a health standpoint. Implementing changes to make Coca-Cola less associated with sugar and obesity will provide it will some respite from ongoing backlash. Many people will agree that a strategic move to get people to consume less sugar can only be a positive thing.

Anna Alonso
July 26, 2021 11:01 pm

What have we learned over the past year? When there is uncertainty and a risk of shortage, we hoard items that we otherwise don’t think twice about. Last year we saw videos and images of customers coming to blows over toilet paper as the realities of the pandemic got closer to home. Now there is a risk of a new Coke entering the lives of Coca-Cola fans as the previous much-loved drink disappears forever.

Uncertainty abounds. So what’s happening? You guessed it! People are stocking up and hoarding Coca-Cola Zero Sugar before the Coke apocalypse arrives. It’s happening now and it happened in 1985 when Coca-Cola tried to introduce a flatter, sweeter recipe. A New York Times article published in June 1985, Fans of Old Coke Say the New Is Not It, explains how one shop inflated the price of the scarce old Coke by three times its regular price. One customer bought 100 cases of old Coke and rented a storage locker whereas another offered $1000 for only 10 cases.

The internet never ceases to amaze me with its capability to organize. Protesting about a recipe change to Coke Zero isn’t quite the same as the Arab Spring protest of 10 years ago that made use of Facebook pages or the 2019 Hong Kong protests that made use of Telegram. But it’s still impressive how people come together and make their voices heard πŸ˜› #SaveCokeZero, #BringBackZero and #WorstCokeEver are some of the hashtags being used on social media, Coke-specific accounts such as @BringBackZero on Twitter are fighting the good fight, and there is even a petition on to bring back regular coke zero.

Although there is resistance to Coca-Cola’s recipe change, the protests are a bit flat. Yes, that pun was entirely intended! 😁 When it comes to food and drink you can’t please everyone. From the looks of it the protests aren’t even close to being large enough to get Coca-Cola to backtrack. New Coke is here to stay, so we better get used to it. Or at least until the next recipe change.

Josh Wright
July 25, 2021 10:11 pm

The announcement of the new and improved Coca-Cola Zero Sugar has concerned some people and made others fly into a rage. Responses include, “I really hope you didn’t ruin it”, “It now tastes very bland/flat” and “Y’all need to quit messing with my drink” πŸ˜…

The new flavour has already rolled out here in the UK. In fact it is available in Europe and Latin America. I haven’t noticed any difference and didn’t even know there had been a change that “optimized” existing flavours and ingredients. I don’t consider this a bad thing. I enjoy the taste very much.

To me this gives an indication of the state of social media. hit the nail on the head when he gives Coca-Cola the ‘bad guy’ moniker. I wonder how many people criticizing the taste of the new Coke Zero have even tried it. It could be that some people have already decided the taste is bad before even giving it a fair shot.

Also let’s not forget that Coke Zero, or any other drink for that matter, can taste differently even if the ingredients are the same. Try Coke from a restaurant dispenser and see how different it tastes from one restaurant to the next. I’ve noticed a can of Coke having a slightly different taste to that of a bottle. And then there’s the temperature. I prefer a chilled bottle of Coke from the fridge instead of a room temperature Coke. It’s a night and day difference for me.

The new Coke Zero taste could be better or in my experience, unnoticeable. In the quick fire responses of social media and the binary designations of ‘good company’ and ‘bad company’, Coca-Cola may not be getting a fair response to its announcement. At the end of the day it’s sales figures that count, and it’s these figures Coca-Cola senior management will be focusing on.

Murray Hinton
July 25, 2021 11:26 am

When I heard about Coca-Cola’s new Coca-Cola Zero Sugar recipe I must admit I had a bit of a chuckle. I knew it would cause controversy among regular drinkers and die-hard fans. I drink my fair share of Coke Zero. It has probably been more instrumental than I give it credit for in helping me lose weight. I would be a regular Coca-Cola drinker and when I switched to Diet Coke and Coke Zero, I wasn’t a fan of the taste. Over time the taste grew on me and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I could reduce my sugar intake by switching to zero calorie soft drinks.

What it all comes down to is taste! Although it took some time for me to get used to the taste, I ended up loving it after a while. Whenever I drink regular Coca-Cola I can’t stand the taste now. In fact I recently ordered an Uber Eats meal with a Coke Zero but the delivery driver gave me a regular Coke. I accepted it, thinking it wouldn’t be too bad to have the original taste again. Wrong. I couldn’t get through 3 sips.

Coca-Cola’s explanation for the change is to bring Coke Zero closer in taste to the regular Coke. Many of us including me don’t want this! We don’t want the regular Coke taste. Messages being sent to Coca-Cola on various social media outlets are asking them why they are tinkering with things when you have perfection. The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind.

I sound like a die-hard fan. I promise you I’m not πŸ˜‚ . But I am hesitant. I can see people complaining about the drink, saying the aftertaste is awful and there was no need to change. Coke Zero has helped me with my weight loss struggles and helped me keep the weight off. I haven’t tried the new Coke Zero yet. That first sip will be loaded with anticipation.