The new name is intended to make clearer that the drink has no sugar, and a new recipe is intended to make the drink taste more like regular Coke. The company isn't specifying what it's changing aside from saying it tweaked the "blend of flavors." It says the drink will use the same artificial sweeteners.
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. says the new cans and bottles, which will incorporate more red like regular Coke, will start hitting shelves in August.
Fans who like Coke Zero just the way it is took to social media, with some people joking about stockpiling the current version or referencing the history of New Coke. Others asked the company to please reconsider, and Coca-Cola's social media team was busily responding, saying they're hopeful that people will love the new version.
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The push behind Coke Zero comes as Americans continue moving away from Diet Coke, which was introduced in the 1980s and has its own taste that's different from Coke. Coke Zero was introduced in 2005 and is intended to more closely mimic the flagship cola.
Coke Zero has generally been marketed to sporting events that skew to a male audience, while Diet Coke has been marketed to audiences that skew female, says Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest. Both drinks are listed as having no calories.
Coca-Cola in the past has blamed the declines of Diet Coke on concerns over the aspartame used in the drink, though the ingredient is also used in Coke Zero, which has enjoyed growth globally.
James Quincey, CEO of Coca-Cola, says people haven't always understood that Diet Coke and Coke Zero have no sugar.
"It may surprise you to learn, but it's true," Quincey
Coca-Cola notes that the newer version of Coke Zero has already been launched in some other countries. That may allay concerns that the revamp won't go over well with fans, such as the infamous 1985 rollout of "New Coke," or PepsiCo's more recent recipe change for Diet Pepsi. PepsiCo had removed aspartame, which it said people didn't like. But then it brought back a version of Diet Pepsi with the artificial sweetener after sales fell.