Bye-Bye Coke Zero. Make Room for Coca-Cola Zero Sugar

Brand Wants to Make Sure Consumers Really Get the 'Zero' Part

Published On
Jul 26, 2017

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Coca-Cola Co. is killing Coke Zero in favor of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. It's hard to tell what's different, however, beyond a significant design and branding overhaul.

While Coke Zero used a lot of black in its design, Coca Cola Zero Sugar's packaging leans heavily on red. The design more closely adheres to the look of regular Coke, in line with the "one brand" strategy that Coca-Cola rolled out in January 2016. The goal is to portray variants like Diet Coke and now Zero Sugar not as separate brands but as customized choices for drinkers who at times want no-sugar versions. The unified red look "will actually help people stay in the Coca-Cola franchise, resulting in "less switching between brands," CEO James Quincey said on an earnings call Wednesday.

The ingredient list remains largely the same, including the use of aspartame as a sweetener. "We optimized the blend of flavors that gave Coke Zero its real Coca-Cola taste," a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said when asked to explain the difference in the formula. She pointed to changes in the natural flavor composition. New packaging plugs a "new improved taste."

But the alterations seem as much about marketing as the liquid. By putting "Zero Sugar" in the name, rather than just "Zero," the brand more clearly communicates that it does not contain sugar. The negative publicity around sugar's link to obesity has emerged as a major threat to soda makers in recent years, which has only intensified as more local governments enact taxes on sugary drinks. PepsiCo made a similar change last year when it rebranded its Pepsi Max product as Pepsi Zero Sugar. It promoted the shift by making Pepsi Zero Sugar, not regular Pepsi, the sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show.

Coca-Cola is pouring significant marketing into the new product, which will hit stores in August. A campaign running from September through December will include TV, digital, radio, outdoor, social media and retail advertising, as well as a sampling tour. The effort "represents the biggest investment we have made in the brand since its launch in 2005," Stuart Kronauge, Coca-Cola's U.S. business president and senior-VP marketing for North America, said in a blog post.

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