With memories of the 1985 New Coke debacle somehow still fresh, the announcement that the taste of Coke Zero is changing has regular drinkers on edge. One suggested Coca-Cola have a backup plan before demanding it "stop messing with a good thing." Another poster suggested the company concentrate on a greater need by improving Diet Coke. The revelation was made Tuesday, the New York Times reports, with a tweet saying Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is getting a new can design and a new formula. The remodeled version is rolling out this month, per the Washington Post, and will reach full distribution in August. The company said the goal is to "deliver an even more iconic Coke taste," and executives reassured customers that the change isn't drastic. "It is hard to see anyone except the most die-hard Coke Zero Sugar people noticing the difference," said an Emory University marketing professor who's worked with the company.
The ingredient list isn't even changing, executives said. The new version simply "optimizes existing Coca-Cola Zero Sugar flavors and existing ingredients," the company said. But customers aren't letting the 1985 mess go. In a cautionary tale now taught in business schools, Coca-Cola tried to get a leg up on Pepsi by changing the formula of its flagship beverage and labeling the result New Coke. Nobody liked it—except Pepsi, which called New Coke "a tremendous opportunity for us." It was reviewed as overly sweet, flat, and "a taste tragedy." Coca-Cola gave up a few months later, bringing back the original formula as Coca-Cola Classic. This time, Coke Zero has the advantage of having survived a reworking in 2017 designed to make it taste more like a basic Coke. This version has already hit some international markets, where criticism has begun. One tweet thanked the company for breaking a Coke Zero addiction with the revamping, because "the taste is so bad." (Read more Coke Zero stories.)