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Diet Coke starts 2018 with a new look and fruit flavours

As soft drink sales decline, the cola maker looks to attract new, millennial drinkers

Hoping to attract new, younger Diet Coke drinkers, Coca-Cola is making extensive changes to the brand with new flavours and packaging slated to hit Canadian store shelves next month.

The Diet Coke formula remains the same, but four new fruit flavours are being introduced—Feisty Cherry, Twisted Mango, Zesty Blood Orange and Ginger Lime. Like the original, the new flavours will be sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame potassium (ace-K) and will have zero calories and sugar.

“We’re modernizing what has made Diet Coke so special for a new generation,” said Rafael Acevedo, Coca-Cola North America’s group director for Diet Coke, in a release. “The same unapologetic confidence still comes through and the same great Diet Coke taste people love is here to stay, but we’re making the brand more relatable, and more authentic to modern day.”

Packaging retains the familiar silver of Diet Coke but with a thick vertical stripe in bold colours to match the corresponding flavours. The new Diet Coke will be sold in slimmer 310 mL cans as singles and in eight-packs, as well as standard 355 mL cans in 12-packs, mini cans and glass bottles. According to the company: “Sleek cans offer a more premium drinking experience for our fans, and they visually represent an evolution of the brand’s personality, standing taller and more assertive.”

The changes come after a period of prolonged sales decreases in the soft drink category with consumers concerned about the sugar in regular sodas, and the artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) in diet offerings.

A study for the Heart and Stroke Foundation released last year, for example, concluded that Canadian non-diet soft drink sales declined 27% between 2004 and 2015 (largely offset by increases in other sugary beverage sales such as energy drinks).

According to Beverage Marketing Corp., soft drink consumption in the U.S. in 2016 was about 38.5 gallons per capita, down from more than 50 gallons around the turn of the century. And, research from Beverage Digest found Diet Coke sales dropped 4.3% in 2016—though Diet Pepsi fell 9.2%.

Last year, Coca-Cola also revamped its Coke Zero, rebranding it as Coke Zero Sugar. Coca-Cola said Coke Zero Sugar tasted more like regular Coca-Cola, while Diet Coke has a “crisper taste and bolder flavours.”

“Diet Coke is an incredibly strong brand and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar was the fastest growing soft drink in Canada in 2017,” said Carolyn Harty, group director for sparkling brands for Coca-Cola, in a release. “Together, these two brands make up the largest no-calorie soft drink portfolio in Canada and with this relaunch, we believe we can continue to re-energize and strengthen our no-calorie business.”

 While stressing that the original 35-year-old Diet Coke would still be available to existing brand fans, it seems clear the Diet Coke overhaul is an attempt to reach the coveted millennial demographic.

In the marketing industry, this demographic is often characterized as being more health conscious than older consumers and more interested in buying experiences rather than things.

“Millennials are now thirstier than ever for adventures and new experiences, and we want to be right by their sides,” said Acevedo. “We’re contemporizing the Diet Coke brand and portfolio with sleek packaging and new bold flavours that are appealing to new audiences.”

And along with the press release and background materials explaining the changes, the company included an article, “The Diet Coke design evolution through the eyes of rising millennial talent,” about the 26-year old designer who was creative lead on the project.

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