As you've no doubt noticed, Coke Zero is no longer a thing, replaced with a nearly identical drink that has nearly identical packing and a nearly identical ingredients list. Its replacement, Coke Zero Sugar, is a bullcrap drink, but Coke Zero was a bullcrap drink too.
Photo by Denise Sebastian.
Now, I'm not saying Coke Zero is bad. I'm drinking a bottle of it as I write this. But it has no reason to exist.
Coca-Cola only created Coke Zero in the first place because Diet Coke was too girly. Here's how the Baltimore Sun reported on Coke Zero's launch in 2005:
Still, Coca-Cola Zero is carefully avoiding labelling itself as diet. Its marketing is geared to a demographic, such as young people and the most macho of men, who see a stigma attached to the word diet.
"We made a point of not calling it diet," said Scott Williamson, a Coca-Cola spokesman. "There are a group of folks out there, primarily young adults, who for a lot of reasons, some taste, some brand personality, won't drink diet sodas. They may not like them because of the taste or stigma attached to the word 'diet.'"
It's entirely a marketing gimmick. Diet Coke was actually born of the same market factors, because Tab (Coke's cola-flavoured diet drink in the US) had too much of that "woman on a diet" stigma.
Any time you re-brand a drink, you have an opportunity to change the flavour and so Diet Coke tasted a little better than Tab. Coke Zero and Diet Coke are slightly different: the latter uses aspartame, while the former uses a mix of aspartame and acesulfame potassium. (These are both no-kilojoule sweeteners and before you ask, neither one is going to kill you.)
Some people say they prefer Coke Zero to Diet Coke, but be honest: by the second sip, all you're thinking is "mmm black fizzy water". Coke Zero Sugar is supposedly reformulated, but the ingredients list is identical to Coke Zero.
Most likely they have tweaked the "natural flavours" component and that's it. So the death of Coke Zero and the launch of all-new Coke Zero Sugar are bullcrap marketing events. But in the land of diet drink marketing, that's nothing new.