Coca-Cola Australia has confirmed that its green-labelled, stevia-sweetened alternative to Diet Coke will be entering the local market — but not until April next year. We spoke to Coca-Cola Australia's group marketing manager Dianne Everett about what Coke fans can expect from this new soft drink and how it will distinguish itself from the company's other diet options.
It's not typical for a soft drink to be announced six months out from launch, but that's exactly what Coke has done with Life; a “natural” soft drink that uses a mixture of cane sugar and natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of stevia plants.
The addition of stevia has allowed Coke to reduce the drink's kilojoule count by 35 per cent without compromising on taste. This is thanks to stevia's incredibly high sweetness level — the extract contains approximately 200 times the sweetness of regular table sugar. Despite this, it contains no calories.
Unfortunately, you won't be able to pick up a can of this stuff any time soon: Coke Life isn't slated to appear on Aussie store shelves until April 2015. Indeed, the preliminary batch is so limited that we weren't allowed to take a single sample from Coke's North Sydney headquarters. (The company is currently using a mixture of British imports and dummy cans as it awaits local production.)
So why the lengthy lead up before launch? According to Dianne Everett, the months to come will be utilised by Coke to inform customers about what the new product offers and where it sits in relation to the company's other diet offerings. Expect lots of advertising between now and April.
"This is going to be a huge launch for us; it's definitely the biggest we've had since Coke Zero," Everett revealed to Lifehacker.
"The typical Aussie [Coke] drinker is pretty unforgiving on taste, so we'll be focusing on that, as well as the fact that it has fewer kilojoules. But the important thing is that it has a very similar [taste] profile to Coke. We've seen what other markets have done and we're applying the best approaches."
The above could just as easily describe Coke Zero: it too is marketed as a low-kilojoule alternative to Coke that doesn't compromise on taste. Despite the similarities, Everett is confident that the Life product can distinguish itself as a separate offering — without cannibalising sales from the rest of Coke's diet portfolio.
"We're taking Coke Like to market as a compliment to a family of Coke products. It doesn't replace anything. We think it's unlikely that a Diet and Zero drinker will want to bump up their kilojoules: they want lightness. This product is targeting balance seekers; someone who is looking to reduce some of their kilojoule intake without cutting sugar out completely."
Coke is also planning to ramp up the "natural sources" angle: something that Pepsi conspicuously failed to do during the 2012 launch of a similar stevia-derived offering, dubbed Next.
"The fact it's made from natural sources is really important and will help shape our plan going to market," Everett explained. "I don't want to diminish the efforts of our competitor's approach, but I think the single biggest draw card of this product and the main focus of the campaign will be all about explaining what stevia actually is and what the consumer benefit is.
"Stevia is what helps us get to that great taste and lower kilojoule count. If you don't help consumers understand that, then you don't have much of a proposition."
We recently taste-tested the product in London where the product has already launched. Everret confirmed to us that Australia will be getting the same exact formula. (Some markets have tweaked the kilojoule content or use corn syrup in place of sugar.)
This is good news, as we highly enjoyed the British version: it has a much cleaner aftertaste than Coke Zero and is closer in flavour to regular Coca-Cola, albeit with some subtle differences that we actually found pleasing. If you're looking to cut down on sugar but can't abide the synthetic taste of diet soft drink, we reckon this is a pretty good compromise.