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Coca-Cola Zero Is Rebranding Itself in the UK As Britain Adopts a Sugar Tax

Cans of Coca-Cola's new 'Zero' product are seen in a coolerCans of Coca-Cola's new 'Zero' product are seen in a cooler
Out with the old. Photograph by Bloomberg Bloomberg via Getty Images

Coke Zero is a mainstay on grocery and convenience store shelves in the U.K., but it turns out few British shoppers actually know what the name means.

Coca-Cola Great Britain said Tuesday that it’s launching a “new and improved sugar-free Coca-Cola” in June. It will be named Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and will replace the current Coke Zero. The company promises that the new drink “will taste even more like the original Coca-Cola Classic, but without sugar.” It will be accompanied by a $14 million marketing campaign.

The change is part of larger reformulation and new product development program, the company says, but it’s also in response to market research that showed that five in 10 people did not know Coke Zero contained no sugar.

 

That awareness is key in the U.K., where government officials are waging a public assault on sugary beverages. In March, finance minister George Osborne made the surprise announcement that Britain would introduce a tax on soft drinks starting in 2018 in an effort to fight obesity. The planned levy will be imposed on companies based on the sugar content in their drinks.

Coca-Cola Great Britain says the reformulated Coke Zero is its latest action to help consumers reduce their sugar and calorie intake. It’s also reduced the sugar and calorie content of Fanta, Sprite, and Dr Pepper by at least 30%. It is offering smaller portions of soda such as 250 ml cans, and it’s added clearer nutrition labeling to its bottles and cans.

Selling soft drinks to more health-conscious consumers is an on-going challenge for soda companies. Consumption of soda in the U.K. dropped 0.5% in 2015. In the U.S., it sunk to a 30-year low.

In addition to changing Coke Zero’s recipe, the new drink will feature updated packaging that will more clearly state that the beverage is sugar-free. Coke Zero first went on sale in 2006.

In the U.K. 43% of the Coca-Cola products sold have low or no sugar, but the company would like to see that share grow to 50% by 2020.

Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain, said in a statement that the $14 million campaign is “the biggest investment” the company has made in a new product launch in a decade.