With consumers at the heart of Coca-Cola’s beverage portfolio, the company is acutely attuned and responsive to consumer desires. As consumers began seeking more low- and no-calorie products in recent years, Coca-Cola has stepped up innovation – delivering products needed to support the company’s growth agenda.

The reformulated Coca-Cola Zero Sugar™ has been a growth leader. Piloted in 2015 in Japan, by 2016, the new Coca-Cola Zero Sugar formulation was available in 25 percent of markets where the previous recipe had been available. The brand was lifted and shifted even more aggressively in 2017, realizing close to worldwide adoption.

Santiago Bargagna
Santiago Bargagna, Senior Director, Sparkling Innovation at The Coca-Cola Company, along with a strong and agile team coordinated the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar launches, and attributes a smart product, tight-knit teamwork and coordinated marketing efforts to the success of rapid expansion of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar adoption.

“Collaboration between our Research & Development and Marketing teams has been at the core of this initiative. While these teams often partner, the quick and expansive market adoption we targeted demanded a deeper level of partnership and speed,” explained Bargagna. “Consumer understanding and continuous technical development had to occur side-by-side, including fast-paced testing of the product to come as close as possible to a Coca-Cola tasting product with no sugar or calories.”  

Bargagna, who won a Coca-Cola Global Innovation Award for leading the team orchestrating the winning launches, references the “full marketing bundle” – or multiple and coordinated marketing efforts – as key to success.

“Once we have what we believe to be a winning product, we have to push it to market hard, making consumers aware of all it has to offer. We can’t just put on the shelf and expect people to pick it up,” shared Bargagna.

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar’s launch included diverse media channels to create awareness, a new visual identify system to support the new product, aggressive product sampling with consumers – which is critical to taste adoption – sufficient distribution and execution at the point of purchase, and an appropriate price structure.

Marketing approaches, Bargagna noted, are slightly modified as needed market-to-market, as not all markets have the same level of acceptance for no-sugar beverages.

“There are markets where no sugar is becoming the norm. In others markets no sugar is growing very fast and becoming an accepted alternative, and then there are markets where it’s not fully accepted due to taste profile and the local consumer need for sugar,” said Bargagna. “Understanding our markets, and appreciating their differences, has contributed to Coca-Cola Zero Sugar’s remarkable success.”

Greater expansion is underway for Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, with even more markets slated to have launched the product in 2018.

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