Coke Zero Sugar causes a fizz

A new Coca-Cola Zero Sugar recipe is about to hit the shelves replacing two other no sugar variations and simplifying the existing range. Will this change work in the company’s favour or does it risk losing a loyal customer base? 


The new formulation replaces Coke No Sugar and Coke Zero as part of the company’s efforts to make a zero-sugar drink that tastes as similar to Coca-Cola Classic as possible. 

Dr Drew Franklin, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Auckland University of Technology, says although there is a risk that Coca-Cola “will lose some die-hard fans” over the change but “customer attrition” is quite normal over time.

Drew Franklin.

“They will be looking to acquire new customers in response, as well as continuing to serve their current customer base with the new flavour. Line extensions such as Coke Zero Sugar are an important part of an overall marketing and brand strategy, but the market always gets a vote on how successful this new product will be over time.”

He says “it’s a testament to the power” of the brand that many consumers pay close attention to flavour changes such as this.

“The fact that the Coke brand has become part of the social fabric of many consumers lives is the result of a concerted effort to focus on those formative experiences that Coke is part of, such as summertime with friends, a break at work, and the emotional appeal of the brand.”

Franklin says it is “quite appropriate” for Coca-Cola to respond to changes in taste profiles when market insights show consumers have an appetite for change, however, consumers are quick to punish an organisation for these changes.

“Changing the Coke formula in 1985 was described as an attack on the built-up mystique of the brand, so deep consumer insights will have played a role in the development of these new development of the new Coke Zero Sugar flavour, and the rationalisation of the Coke Zero and Coke No Sugar products.”

Tracey Evans, Head of Marketing, Coca-Cola New Zealand says the new launch is in response to the growing demand for no sugar options with one in two Coca-Cola’s purchased in New Zealand containing zero sugar.

Tracey Evans.

“Kiwis are one of the biggest no sugar consumers globally and we’re committed to reducing sugar throughout our portfolio to provide delicious options for our customers.”

Evans says the company is expecting the new recipe will “provoke debate” and welcomes that.

“Ultimately, we want consumers to try the new recipe. We believe that it will appeal both to current followers of Coca-Cola No Sugar, as well as to people who love Coca-Cola Classic. We don’t expect it to be everyone’s favourite – but we think it’s a strong contender.”

Coca-Cola is used to getting “wide-ranging reactions” when a recipe is changed and is anticipating this when the latest recipe is released Evans says.

“We know the previous Coca-Cola No Sugar recipe and Coke Zero have built a loyal following for the brand.  We only change recipes if we feel we can improve them and bring more followers to our brands. We believe that the majority of people who already enjoy the brand will love the new recipe – and that people who aren’t currently Coca-Cola Zero Sugar drinkers will try it and love it too.

“We’re always evolving our product portfolio to provide more of what people love.” 

Evans says she believes the new flavour will be popular with the existing fan base, as well as with Coca-Cola Classic drinkers who are seeking a zero sugar option.

“Since we launched Coca-Cola No Sugar in New Zealand in 2017, we have seen significant growth, and we believe this new recipe will appeal to an even wider group of people looking for that great Coca-Cola taste, with zero sugar.”

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar’s updated packaging design is being rolled out across global markets as part of the company’s ‘One Brand’ strategy which was launched in 2016.

Using Coca-Cola’s Spencerian script in black, the new product uses the iconic trademark to differentiate it from other formulations.

This new look will be carried across all packs in the range in New Zealand including Coca-Cola Classic, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Diet Coca-Cola.

Zero Sugar has already launched in Europe, Latin America, Asia, North America and Australia and is available in a variety of sizes, across all retailers in New Zealand from June 2022.

About Ayla Miller

Ayla Miller is a Feature Writer/Sub-editor for SCG Media Business titles, NZ Marketing, StopPress, Idealog and The Register.

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