Taste-Testing New Coke Zero Sugar

The new Coke Zero Sugar is replacing the popular Coke Zero.

I’m not impressed with the “new & improved” taste of new Coke Zero Sugar, Coca-Cola’s replacement for Coke Zero. I brought some home to taste-test, after I found stacks of it at the grocery store next to a few remaining bottles of Coke Zero bottles. Alert:  if you’re stockpiling the old Coke Zero, get it NOW as it looks like it’s going fast!

After sipping side-by-side bottles of the old and new formulas, I found that they are pretty similar. But to me, Coke Zero Sugar is a bit less sweet and flavorful. The folks at Coca-Cola say that Coke Zero Sugar is closer to the taste of the standard Coca-Cola. But it simply reminded me of what I dislike about Diet Coke.

Why fix something that’s not broken? Coke Zero sales actually GREW by 3.5 percent in 2016, according to Beverage Digest. After its rollout  in 2005, Coca Cola hailed Coke Zero as its most successful product launch since Diet Coke in 1982. So why did Coca-Cola decide to re-formulate the already popular Coke Zero, which is already sugar-free, and call it Coca-Cola Zero Sugar? Supposedly the reason was to make it taste more like regular Coca-Cola, but sugar-free.  I thought Coke Zero already did that.

I thought the marketing point of Coke Zero was a no-calorie soft drink without the “diet” stigma — something that would attract the guys, with its black packaging and use of the term “Zero” instead of “Diet.” Calling it “Zero Sugar” makes it sound wimpy and redundant.

Apparently, today’s Coca-Cola execs weren’t around during the disastrous roll-out of “New Coke” back in 1985. Due to fan backlash, the “classic” formula was restored.  And what about clear-colored Crystal Pepsi, which failed to catch on in the 1990s after a huge marketing campaign?  It’s been brought back a couple of times as a limited-time retro product,  but that’s about it. Vitamin-spiked 7-UP Plus and Diet Coke Plus never gained much traction in the 2000s. Pepsi faced a backlash in 2015 when it switched out the aspartame sweetener in Diet Pepsi for sucralose. Clearly, it’s risky to mess with a soft drink that’s already well-established.

Today, it’s hip to sip. The grocery aisles are awash juice blends, energy drinks, green nutrition drinks, sparkling water, bottled water and so on. Soft drinks have a lot more competition that they used to, and I guess their makers are trying to come up with ways to stay ahead of the market.