Coca-Cola’s move to launch new recipe Coke No Sugar alongside the similarly branded staple line Coke Zero, now in the process of being discontinued, “makes no strategic sense”, according to a leading marketing expert.
This has come after Woolworths confirmed to The New Daily it would not be stocking Coke No Sugar on its supermarket shelves.
“We have taken the decision to not range this product at this time,” a spokesman said.
“Our customers looking for a no sugar or low sugar cola option have ample choice already. We continue to stock Coca-Cola Zero in our stores nationwide.”
Deakin University marketing lecturer Michael Callaghan said Woolworths’ decision would lead to a “huge blow” in Coca-Cola’s bottom line.
“This is a substantial problem. If potential customers can’t access the products – and Woolworths is one of the primary distributors – then people can’t trial it, and they’re not going to buy it,” he said.
“It costs a lot of money to put a product on a supermarket shelf and it takes time for consumers to be made aware of a new product. Initially, Woolworths would have lost money from doing it.”
It is a widely known marketing strategy that “you don’t burn established brands and bring in the new”, he said.
“Unless there’s something wrong with the original recipe that they want to step away from, you don’t just throw away millions of dollars invested in one brand to start a rival brand.”
Mr Callaghan said Coca-Cola knew this as well as any company.
“About 30 years ago, Coca-Cola changed their standard Coke recipe in the US and it was a consumer disaster,” he said.
“There was huge consumer backlash for them to return to the original recipe.
“This is often used as a classic example of why you don’t mess with established brands.
“Pepsi has consistently held its brand throughout Coca-Cola’s changes over this short period of time. It makes me wonder why Coke is desperately shuffling its branding.”
Coca-Cola announced the launch of Coke with Stevia in April, shortly after discontinuing production of Coke Life.
Three months later, the new Coke No Sugar appears to be hitting shelves to coincide with the phasing out of staple product Coke Zero.
Despite very similar branding, a Coca-Cola Amatil spokeswoman told The New Daily that Coke No Sugar was “not a variant of Coke Zero”.
“We’re entirely confident that Coca-Cola No Sugar will be a huge success,” she said.
“It’s rolling out now onto thousands of shelves in other supermarkets, convenience stores, milk bars and grocery stores nationwide.”
When asked about the quick succession of changes to Coke products, a spokesman for Coca-Cola South Pacific told The New Daily the recipe for Coca-Cola No Sugar had been five years in the making.
“As part of a global rollout, Australia was among the first markets to launch the product,” he said.
“In markets where it has already launched around the world the consumer responses have been fantastic.”
The New Daily asked the spokesman if research on ingredients had triggered the change in recipe.
“The launch is another example of Coca-Cola leading innovation to provide and encourage choice. Meeting consumers’ desire for more choice to suit their tastes, lifestyles and diets is good for our consumers and good for our business,” he said.
“The new recipe is the product of years of research, consumer testing and trials.
“Faced with this challenge, our team of taste experts spent five years mixing up different flavours, trying dozens of recipes and undertaking numerous separate consumer trials before finally cracking it.”