Sugar has been demonised as an ingredient for several years now. Many food and drink manufacturers have been searching for the holy grail of making products that contain less or virtually no sugar, and no calories while still maintaining the same taste.

It is not surprising that the carbonated drinks market has been negatively affected by this given how much sugar can be contained in some of them.

Two industry majors, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, have been locked in a high-stakes contest to be the first to efficiently recreate one of their most prized drinks using sugar-free alternatives. Successful alternatives have been created, such as Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Pepsi Max using artificial sweeteners; however a natural alternative remains elusive.

The quest continues

Coca-Cola continues to be committed to its quest for the ultimate sugar replacement to adapt to fast-changing consumer tastes. Its next attempt will be a Coca-Cola drink that only uses stevia as a sugar substitute and has zero calories. This isn’t the first time Coca-Cola has used stevia as a substitute – it was previously used in Coca-Cola Life, but some consumers found the end product to have a bitter aftertaste. Using innovative production methods Coca-Cola has successfully removed the molecules that had previously caused the unusual aftertaste.

The hurdles of recreating flavours

Without artificial sweeteners Coca-Cola Life struggled to recreate the same taste as standard Coca-Cola due to the aftertaste of Truvia, a natural sweetener made from stevia. Therefore it struggled to co-exist with Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar (or what was then known as Coke Zero) despite the added appeal of natural ingredients. It just didn’t taste the same and consumers couldn’t justify purchasing the drink when better tasting alternatives already existed. The product was withdrawn in the UK in 2017.

The launch had echoes of when Coca-Cola changed the formula of Coke in 1985, which led to protests to demand Coca-Cola it be reversed and ultimately to the release of Coca-Cola Classic in 1992.

It’s likely that the success of this new product will rely on how well Coca-Cola has managed to recreate the original coke taste and how well it can establish itself from Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. Given that it has been less than a year since Coca-Cola Life has been discontinued in the UK, no doubt consumers will still have that product in their minds as a comparison when trying this new drink. Hopefully they will be prepared to give Coca-Cola’s newest endeavour a chance.

During the COVID-19 crisis, which of the following do you feel is the best option to help maintain operator revenues as far as possible?

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