Is Coke’s next-generation Cola, Coke Life with all the sweetness of regular Coke but with half the sugar (thanks to added steviol glycosides) – a winner? Similar to the failed Pepsi Raw, Coke Life has a reduced equivalent of 6 tea-spoons of sugar per can, and is targeting “35- to 55-year-old consumers who are looking for a lower calorie cola with sweetness from natural sources”.
Initial reaction – as the green wonder hits the shelves in the UK – has not been positive. A withering attack from industry thought leader Mark Ritson – Coke Life is the harbinger of death for Coca-Cola – is representative. The main criticism is that Coke Life is ‘confused’ – it’s hardly low calorie (89 calories – equivalent to a handful of 20 Jelly Belly jelly beans), and ‘steviol glycosides’ sounds as scary as aspartame and saccharin. Coke Life is not the electronic cigarette equivalent and saviour of the soda world – but that’s what Coke needs. Instead target health-conscious and calorie-conscious forty-somethings will opt for more natural forms of hydration.
But that’s to miss the point about Coke Life – it’s not for 35- to 55-year-old consumers, it’s for 35- to 55-year-old regulators. Regulators who see ‘Big Sugar’ giants ripe for a sugar-tax to plunder once the coffers of the Big Tobacco have been emptied. Coke Life is smart insurance because it allows Coke to say it offers consumers a natural low(er) calorie alternative. Sometimes innovation is about selling an idea, not a product.