There’s another shake-up in the world of fizzy drinks.
Coca-Cola Zero Sugar’s recipe and packaging is getting a “refresh,” the company announced last week, with executives promising that the new version of the popular no-calorie drink will taste “even more delicious and refreshing” than the current iteration.
The company indicated that the change is more of a tweak than an overhaul, noting that the drink’s ingredient list (including the sweetening blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium) and nutritional values won’t change. The new incarnation instead “optimizes existing Coca-Cola Zero Sugar flavors and existing ingredients,” according to the Coca-Cola announcement. It will appear on shelves this month, with full US distribution in August. Changes to the packaging include the iconic Coca-Cola script in bold black and a streamlined font announcing the “Zero Sugar” part of the product.
Even though the changes sound minor, any tinkering with a beloved beverage can prompt serious anxiety from dedicated consumers, with many recalling the mid-'80s debacle that was New Coke. (A condensed history of the cautionary tale now taught in business schools: Amid its battle with rival Pepsi, Coca-Cola changed its formula and name to New Coke, which customers decidedly didn't like, ultimately forcing the company to reintroduce its original soda as Coca-Cola Classic.)
It’s the second reboot in the 16-year history of the no-calorie beverage, which is supposed to taste more like regular cola than the company’s lighter-sipping Diet Coke. In 2017, Coca-Cola Zero was renamed Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and its formula and packaging revamped, in an apparent effort to further distance the product from traditional diet drinks.
However the rollout of the new bubbly drink plays out, consumers may have the last word: Coca-Cola plans a marketing push that involves taste tests in which sippers will be asked if the new product really is the “Best Coke Ever?”