The last time Coca-Cola changed the flavour of its soda was back in 1985. This time, they are changing the flavour of the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, better known as Coke Zero, or simply, diet coke.
The company officials on Tuesday told the New York Times that the plan was to change the drink in such a way that it would "deliver an even more iconic Coke taste."
However, the news was not taken well by the Americans. Some promised to switch to other drinks, like Diet Dr Pepper, or threatened to turn to Coca-Cola's arch-rival, Pepsi.
The scenario is a repetition of the 1985 debacle when Coca-Cola brought out the sweeter "New Coke" and got rejected by the mass.
A Detroit waitress told The New York Times that year that the soda was "flat and too sweet." A writer in Florida called it "a taste tragedy." A spokesman for Pepsi-Cola declared it "a tremendous opportunity for us."
The change was meant as a jab at Pepsi's growing popularity but it failed as in June 1985, the company was getting 1,500 calls a day on its consumer hotline.
Only three months after "one of the biggest marketing blunders of all time", Coca-Cola announced that it would restore the original Coca-Cola, now rebranded as "Coca-Cola Classic".
This time the response is likely to be not so despite even though it seems so now. Doug Bowman, professor of marketing at Emory University's Goizueta Business School, said, "This is a strategy where Coke is trying to stay ahead of the market."
In general, changing flavours to developing flavours is not a new thing. Coke and Pepsi both have fruity flavours as well, and the advertised changes in the new Coke Zero are subtle by comparison, he said.
"It is hard to see anyone except the most die-hard Coke Zero Sugar people noticing the difference," said Professor Bowman, who from 2002 to 2004 taught courses at Emory to Coca-Cola employees through a program paid for by the company.
Natalia Suarez, a senior brand manager at Coca-Cola, said in a statement that the company had tinkered with the soda recipe because, to keep growing, "we must keep challenging ourselves to innovate and differentiate just as other iconic brands have done."
"The consumer landscape is always changing," she added, "which means we must evolve to stay ahead."
Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which the company released in 2005, has had its flavour changed before. In 2017, the company said the product was "reformulated" so that it would taste more like standard Coca-Cola