The Biggest Flaw In The New Coke Zero Revealed

It was 36 years ago when Coca-Cola decided it was time to announce a big change — one that would involve its most iconic product. The change involved a switch from its classic Coke recipe to a version that it promised would be even better than the original. That the beverage manufacturer would think of doing such a thing was not audacious in and of itself — after all, they'd tweaked the recipe several times since the product was introduced in 1886, and no one seemed to mind. Many blind taste tests of the New Coke even confirmed they were onto something big. Surprisingly, as History explains, the backlash was so huge that the updated product was eventually rolled back, and old Coke was reborn from the ashes as Coca-Cola Classic, leaving New Coke to slink into the annals of drink history. The rollout became a textbook business school case study, filed under "don't let this happen to you" (via Time).

Now, Coca-Cola fans are once again worried that the same mistake will be repeated — this time with their beloved Coke Zero, which is undergoing a few tweaks, according to CNN. By that, the brand means a new look, and a new "improved" flavor. 

With a big recipe change, there comes a risk

Dr. Nicole Avena, a research neuroscientist, nutrition expert, and author of "Why Diets Fail," explained to Mashed that there's always the possibility of fallout when a well-known recipe changes, no matter how much better taste testers say that new product might be. "There is always a risk with change," Dr. Avena said. "We can consider how some people are devoted Pepsi fans and others Coke. Although they are essentially the same soda, the recipe is different, so they don't taste exactly the same. Many people won't drink a Pepsi if they are a Coke lover, for example."  

Of course, Coke executives are positioning the new Coke Zero as a product "refresh," and in a blog post, the Coca-Cola Company claims that the flavors have been tweaked to deliver what the company called "a more iconic Coke taste." To be fair, this isn't the first time the product has been changed since it was launched back in 2005 — it was last reformulated once before in 2017. 

Coke Zero fans online are concerned

The taste tweak accompanied by an all-red can makeover that screams "NOW More Delicious" may not be what Coke Zero customers ordered. "You'd better have a backup plan if this as s***wed up as New Coke was. Wait-do you even remember New Coke? Stop messing with a good thing," warned one social media user. Another said: "Why mess with Coke Zero? Diet Coke is the one that sucks." And in an ominous tweet, a third Coke Zero fan warned: "The new taste is not good the fuuzz is off and it taste more off citrus. I switched to pepsi Max [sic]."

Other fans understandably had questions when first hearing the news. "What did you change? It was already good enough," one Twitter user wrote, accompanied with a sad face emoticon. Fans were not pleased with the official Coca-Cola response to the tweeted question, accusing the brand of using corporate lingo to avoid the truth. "Is this just in the u.s [sic]?" hopefully asked another, to which a fellow Coke Zero fan responded that Coca-Cola had already rolled out the updated formula in Mexico, and they were sadly not impressed.

Fans are attached to the familiar

Dr. Nicole Avena says the passion behind the new Coke Zero recipe isn't surprising, since "fans certainly do get attached to recipes. ... People want something steady they can count on, so changing things up could be a big deal for a lot of people." So even if a new product really is better looking and better tasting that the previous iteration like the company claims (though both those things are highly subjective), it still might not be enough to win over the most loyal consumers.

How the new Coke Zero will go down with most skeptical fans will likely depend on whether it lives up to the promises that marketing experts have made on the can. "Big companies typically spend a lot of money on research and development of new products as well as marketing to make sure it isn't a flop," Dr. Avena explains. "I think it's safe to expect this new product to go well, since they aren't necessarily adding calories or real sugar to the new Coke Zero, but rather just changing the recipe to make it taste more like regular Coke."