So here’s yet another post in which I sound like a shill for the Coca Cola company. Can I help it that I am a recovering Coke Classic addict?
There is a new Coca Cola in town. Julie and Maggie brought some back from the market this weekend. None of us had heard of the stuff. It’s called Coke Zero and it is billed as “the taste of Coke, with zero calories.”
It’s Not Diet Coke
I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t that already Diet Coke?” Actually, no.
I didn’t realize this until recently, but Diet Coke isn’t a no-calorie version of good old Coke. It’s a different formula altogether. It seems obvious now, but it didn’t occur to me before. I always assumed that it tasted different because of the sweetener.
When Diet Coke was first created, it became a huge hit. At the same time, Pepsi was gaining on Coke sales and beating it in blind taste tests. The only thing happening to Coke customers was that some were switching to Diet Coke. The Coca-Cola company responded with New Coke, otherwise known as the sugar version of the wildly popular Diet Coke (sweeter, tasted more like Pepsi and won in all the taste tests). The move made good business sense.
Today, the Diet Coke cans still have the same logo that New Coke had (instead of the script Coca-Cola font). And the same flavor as New Coke (instead of the Classic formula).
Coke Evil (i.e. C2) was the first (as far as I can tell) reduced-calorie soda with the flavor of Coca-Cola Classic. Which explains why I liked it so much.
And now, about a year or so after Coke Evil debuted, we now have a no calorie version of C2 - that is, we finally have a the Coke Classic formulation with absolutely no sugar.
How the heck does it taste?
The first thing I noticed about Coke Zero is that it smells like Coca-Cola Classic. The second thing I noticed is that it tastes a heck of a lot like Coke Evil.So much so that I had to check the ingredients again to verify that it was claiming no sugars in the formula. It has strong flavors of nutmeg and vanilla, as opposed to Diet Coke’s sweet overtones and citrusy undertones.
It gets my “thumbs up.” According to Julie, it’s better than C2.
What Is It?
What makes it taste so good? As far as I can tell - it’s the formula.
The sweeteners are the same ones that have been in other drinks: aspartame and acesulfame K. These sweeteners work together, apparently, to mask their own aftertastes.
So I’m guessing that the sweeteners aren’t the breakthrough so much as they’ve finally really decided to make a Diet Coke Classic.
The soft drink business must love numbers. We’ve got “Coke Zero,” “Pepsi One” and “C2.” Oh - and New Coke was renamed “Coke II” when it was on its way out.
What’s going to happen to all these different Coke sub-brands? Is C2 superfluous now, or is the presence of sugar a selling point that differentiates it? Coke Zero seems to be a nemesis to all the different diet sodas already in the Coke line.
Even more confusing: recently, Diet Coke changed its formulation. It now tastes better than before with the introduction of Splenda. I was issued a checkout coupon for Diet Coke with Splenda the other day while buying some Pepsi One (with Splenda). The coupon reads “Taste the newest member of the family” which confuses the hell out of me because Diet Coke has had Splenda for at least a week, and this weekend is the first I’ve seen of Coke Zero. I’m afraid that implies (to me) that like C2 last year, Coke Zero is not yet accepted into the family.
When C2 was introduced, it was first only available in 20 oz. bottles. Then cans only. Finally, in 2 liter bottles. Right now Coke Zero is only in the local stores in 20 oz. size. It was on sale at Stop and Shop so, of course, I went back there and bought a bunch.
I like it better than the too-sweet Diet Coke. So, of course, I expect them to stop making it eventually, once I am good and attached to it.
Do you think Coke is crazy for releasing all these sub brands? Are they going to let the market decide? Do you not care at all, perhaps? Have you tried Coke Zero? Let me know what you think, in comparison to C2 and Diet Coke.
I tell you, if I can drink Coke Zero when I go to lunch or a movie, this diet thing is going to be easier than I thought.
(P.S. Fresca is still better with pretzels, though)
1 For those of you too young to remember, New Coke bombed, even though it taste-tested better. There was a huge backlash against it because the Coca-Cola company stopped making old Coke. (The thinking being that two Cokes would split the market share and allow Pepsi to claim it was more popular than Coke). People were furious, until they finally brought back old Coke as “Coca-Cola Classic.” Eventually, New Coke became “Coke II” and then disappeared entirely, because people were embarrassed to like it. Now you can only get its flavor in (still wildly popular) Diet Coke.