Coca-Cola’s new sugar-free option: is more choice always a good thing?


Coca-Cola has hit a stumbling block in Australia as one of the leading retail chains, Woolworths, has decided not to stock its new ‘No Sugar’ variant.

According to the beverage giant, Coca-Cola No Sugar is said to taste “even more like classic Coca-Cola” but without the sugar; making the taste “as close as possible to the real thing.”  

The new launch sounds, and looks, strikingly similar to Coca-Cola Zero, which is marketed as having “that refreshing Coca-Cola flavor;” while being sugar-free with similar red and black branding.

Coca-Cola plan to eventually phase out the “Zero” variant in Australia next year. However, for the next few months at least, four different low/no sugar variants of Coca-Cola are available in the country - three of which are completely sugar-free.

Many Australians are looking for lower-sugar options and will find the new ‘No Sugar’ option appealing. According to GlobalData’s Q4 2016 consumer survey, 43% of Australian consumers are actively choosing non-alcoholic beverage products – such as fizzy drinks – with low or no sugar.

Too much of a good thing?

However, the strategy to launch No Sugar while Zero is still on the market is a risky move. It sends mixed messages to consumers around taste and health, adding additional complexity to the purchasing process.

In fact 44% of Australians find knowing what food and drinks are healthy for them confusing, according to GlobalData’s Q2 2015 survey.

This added complexity is a key reason behind Woolworth’s decision not to stock the new option. The retail chain claims consumers already have enough choice of low and no-sugar variants: Coca-Cola With Stevia (formerly Coca-Cola Life), Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero.

As sugar continues to be vilified by consumers, beverage manufacturers such as Coca-Cola are right to focus on low- and no- sugar innovation. However, brands should also be wary of launching too many similar products that create confusion and risk turning consumers away, rather than reigniting sales.

Focusing on unique flavors – for example Pepsi Max’s new Ginger variant in the UK – offers stronger potential to attract consumers looking for sugar-free beverage innovation with a clear point of differentiation.