As an aficionado of pop culture, I’m well versed in the New Coke incident of 1985. For one reason or another, Coca-Cola changed the formula of their regular variety of Coke, branding it as “New Coke.” The actual change was a switch to high-fructose corn syrup instead of regular sugar, changing the profile of its sweetness. Just about everyone hated it, so much so that Coke had to bring back its original variety as “Coke Classic,” though some have long since suspected this was a deliberate marketing ploy to get people to buy more Coke. The point is that, since then, any attempts to change Coke’s formula have been met with skepticism, to put it nicely, and it seems the same applies to its variations.
Coca-Cola announced this week that Coca-Cola Zero Sugar (which is technically a different drink from the original Coke Zero, but we’ll just call it “Coke Zero Sugar” for the sake of convenience) would be receiving a change in both its formula and packaging. “Recognizing that tastes and preferences are always evolving, we’re focused on continuous improvement to give fans the best-tasting Coca-Cola they want — with zero sugar or calories — offered in the most iconic packaging and powered by some of our most creative, consumer-centric marketing yet,” said Rafael Prandini, North America’s Coca-Cola category lead.
“Despite its enormous success, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar still represents a relatively small percentage,” of Coke’s brand, according CEO James Quincey. “The improved recipe brings its taste even closer to that [of] the iconic Coca-Cola,” he said, adding that “this was influenced by consumer insight and our focus on constant improvement.”
Unfortunately, their “consumer insight” may have been inaccurate, as early tasters of the new Coke Zero Sugar have expressed nothing but distaste for it.
We already have the new version of Coke Zero in Europe (with no warning). It’s as bad as new Coke was. Have stopped drinking Coke Zero as a result.
— Tara Bradford (@TaraBradford) July 14, 2021
I don’t drink soda anymore, but I’m mad they’re doing it to the one soda I liked ? pic.twitter.com/SEgxBPfZZZ
— nation of classic loki (@NationOfEagles) July 15, 2021
— Stephen Collins (@scollins87avfc) May 12, 2021
Whether this outcry will prompt Coca-Cola to create “Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Classic” remains to be seen.