More reports on: Soft drinks, Marketing

Diet Coke, Coke Zero to regain splash of original red

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21 April 2016

Fans of Diet Coke - an increasingly shrinking populace - might hunt in vain next time they look for it, because the drink's distinctive silver packaging won't be around for much longer.

Coca-Cola has announced a shift in branding that focuses on redesigning the cans of Diet Coke, Coke Zero and the Stevia-sweetened Coke Life to contain more of the brand's red colouring. Each of the new cans and bottles maintains a splash of their original colours - silver for Diet Coke, black for Coke Zero and green for Coke Life - but heavily features the ''Red Disc,'' which was introduced in January as part of the ''Taste the Feeling'' campaign. Essentially, it's a circle that's the same hue of red long associated with original Coke.

It's part of an ongoing battle to combat shrinking soda sales in the US.

Last year, The New York Times reported that sales of full-calorie soft drinks, such as the original Coca-Cola, fell by more than 25 per cent, calling it the ''single largest change in the American diet in the last decade''.

In fact, soft drink consumption in general is at a 30-year low, Vox reports.

Low- or no-calorie offerings held up a bit better, actually skyrocketing by more than 30 per cent to $8.5 billion in sales in the first decade of the new millennium. But sales slid down by 20 per cent from 2010 to 2014, The Washington Post reported. They're projected to continue dropping dramatically, shrinking from a high of $8.5 billion of sales to $5.8 billion in 2019.

That trend is continuing. In fact, in 2015 Diet Coke saw a 6 per cent drop in first-quarter volume compared to the same period in 2014, according to Fortune. And Advertising Age recently reported that 2015 was the tenth straight year of declining sales volumes for major no-calorie soda brands.

''Consumers' attitudes towards sweeteners have really changed,'' Howard Telford, an industry analyst with Euromonitor, told The Washington Post in 2015. ''There's a very negative perception about artificial sweeteners. The industry is still trying to get its head around this.''

In an odd reversal, though, original Coke sales rose by 1 per cent, Mashable reported.

And that's after the company came under scrutiny last year for donating to nutritional science nonprofits which spread the idea that obesity wasn't caused by consuming unhealthy foods or sugary drinks.

''Coca-Cola's sales are slipping, and there's this huge political and public backlash against soda, with every major city trying to do something to curb consumption,'' Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, told The New York Times in a blog post titled ''Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets.''

''This is a direct response to the ways that the company is losing. They're desperate to stop the bleeding,'' Simon also told the Times.

The week's release from Coca-Cola states the rebranding is aimed at using ''one visual identity system,'' but the new branding also happens to make all Coke cans look more like the traditional, sugar-laden version that seems to be experiencing a small increase in sales.

This photo provided by The Coca-Cola Company shows the new appearance of Coca-Cola bottles. Coca-Cola says it is giving cans and bottles of its flagship sodas a makeover, with plans to unify the appearance of regular Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Coke Life.

The new cans and bottles will roll out in Mexico during the first week of May, and similar versions should appear in supermarkets around the world during the rest of 2016 and 2017, according to a press release.

''Packaging is our most visible and valuable asset,'' Marcos de Quinto, Coca-Cola chief marketing officer, said in the release.

And it's likely true. Altering the drink's packaging has worked in the past. When the company began prominently featuring random person's names (such as ''Daniel,'' Melinda'' or ''Tyler'') in 2015 as part of its ''Share a Coke'' campaign, sales of its 20-ounce bottles rose by more than 19 per cent, AdWeek reported.





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