Even though the changes sound minor, any tinkering with a beloved beverage can prompt serious anxiety from dedicated consumers, with many recalling the mid-'80s debacle that was New Coke. (A condensed history of the cautionary tale now taught in business schools: Amid its battle with rival Pepsi, Coca-Cola changed its formula and name to New Coke, which customers decidedly didn’t like, ultimately forcing the company to reintroduce its original soda as Coca-Cola Classic.)
It’s the second reboot in the 16-year history of the no-calorie beverage, which is supposed to taste more like regular cola than the company’s lighter-sipping Diet Coke. In 2017, Coca-Cola Zero was renamed Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and its formula and packaging revamped, in an apparent effort to further distance the product from traditional diet drinks. That announced change set off a round of hand-wringing. Our colleague Maura Judkis wrote at the time that consumer fears followed the pattern of the five stages of grief, from denial (“tell me it’s not true!”) to acceptance (“I will miss you my friend.”).
A similar wave of sentiment could accompany Tuesday’s news of the latest reboot.
After all, the ghost of New Coke still haunts fans who survived the journey.
However the rollout of the new bubbly drink plays out, consumers may have the last word: Coca-Cola plans a marketing push that involves taste tests in which sippers will be asked if the new product really is the “Best Coke Ever?”
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