The one ingredient in Coke Zero absent from the new Coke No Sugar is not a sweetener but a certain type of preservative.
Coca-Cola has moved away from use of a chemical that was present in both Coke Zero and Coke Life but appears to have been excluded from the soft drink giant’s newest brand, Coke No Sugar.
The preservative is also absent from the recently launched Coke with Stevia and no longer features as an ingredient in the company’s cola range, with the exception of Coke Zero as it’s phased out.
The preservative, benzoate, is commonly used in products such as jam which require a long shelf life.
Earlier this week, Woolworths announced it would not be stocking Coke No Sugar on its supermarket shelves.
Domino’s Pizza will also stop selling Coke No Sugar along with all other Coca-Cola products from September after announcing a new partnership with Pepsi and Schweppes.
This coincides with renewed calls for a “sugar tax” on sugary drinks with the emergence of new research by Australian National University, published in the Nutrition and Diabetes journal.
Physical chemist and Monash University science lecturer Chris Thompson told The New Daily benzoate was usually used in acidic foods or drinks that require a shelf life of one to two years.
“Benzoate does not really have an effect on taste,” he said.
“It has been comprehensively studied and at this stage there is no evidence to suggest general health risks associated with it. There is no evidence of any cancer-causing effects.
“There is some evidence to suggest a risk of dermatitis or that it can provoke asthma in asthmatics, but this is a rare occurrence.”
Mr Thompson said that like any chemical, “it can kill you if you have too much”, but a consumer would need to drink about 10,000 cans of Coke Zero in a day before they start to feel ill-effects from the benzoate.
There is, however, a general public perception that preservatives are a health concern, he said.
“It is kind of curious that they used to have this preservative — why do they feel as though they can remove it and not affect their bottom line?
“I personally have tried Coke No Sugar and to be honest didn’t notice a difference in taste.
“Every ingredient costs them money, so it could be a cost saving strategy.”
Nutritionist and dietician Dr Rosemary Stanton told The New Daily other features of cola drinks were “more problematic” than benzoate.
“When any additive is added to a product that may be consumed in large quantities such as a drink — especially a drink containing caffeine — it’s worth minimising,” she said.
“The acidity of these drinks is a very real dental problem as the acid damages tooth enamel and makes it much easier for decay to occur.”
While benzoate may have little effect on taste, the specific added “flavours” are not listed among the ingredients list, much like Coca-Cola’s “famously secret formula” will never be disclosed.
A Coca-Cola South Pacific spokesman attributed the taste change to a new combination of flavours used in Coke No Sugar which had been “optimised” to create a new recipe that tasted more like Coca-Cola Classic.
Coca-Cola Amatil shares plummeted late this week after Woolworths said it would not stock the new Coke variant.
Its share price dropped from from a high of $9.24 on Thursday to a low of $8.41 on Friday, before rallying to close the week at $8.68.