Coca-Cola knows that tweaking the flavor of its Coke Zero Sugar product may cause pause for its fans, but the soft drink giant is hoping that the new taste will be refreshing.
Coca-Cola said Tuesday that it is changing Coke Zero’s flavor to make it taste more like regular Coke, The New York Times reported. The product’s can is also undergoing a facelift, becoming simply red instead of red and black.
Change has not always gone over well for Coca-Cola’s fans. In 1985 the company introduced “New Coke,” which caused a firestorm of protest, according to The Washington Post. The sweeter version of the original soft drink was rejected by many consumers, forcing Coke to rebrand its original drink in July 1985 as “Coca-Cola Classic,” the Times reported.
At the time, a Detroit waitress told the Times that year that the soda was “flat and too sweet.” A writer in Florida called it “a taste tragedy.” A spokesman for Pepsi-Cola declared it “a tremendous opportunity for us,” the newspaper reported.
Coke officials are hoping that the changes will boost the Coke Zero brand.
“Despite its enormous success, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar still represents a relatively small percentage,” of the Coke brand, CEO James Quincey said during an April analyst call. “The improved recipe brings its taste even closer to that (of) the iconic Coca-Cola.”
“This was influenced by consumer insight and our focus on constant improvement.”
The new version of Coke Zero will be introduced later this month and will be rolled out in Canada in September, CNN reported.
It’s the second reboot in the 16-year history of Coke Zero, a no-calorie beverage. In 2017, Coca-Cola Zero was renamed Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and its formula and packaging were revamped, the Post reported.
Coca-Cola is planning a marketing blitz that will involve taste tests, where sippers will be asked if the new Coke Zero is really the “Best Coke Ever?” the newspaper reported.
Natalia Suarez, a senior brand manager at Coca-Cola, said in a statement that the company changed the soda recipe because, to keep growing, “we must keep challenging ourselves to innovate and differentiate just as other iconic brands have done.”
“The consumer landscape is always changing,” Suarez said, “which means we must evolve to stay ahead.”
Doug Bowman, a professor of marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, said it was unlikely that the new Coke Zero product would create the backlash caused by New Coke.
“This is a strategy where Coke is trying to stay ahead of the market,” Bowman told the Times. “It is hard to see anyone except the most die-hard Coke Zero Sugar people noticing the difference.”
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