Sodas, once the target of scorn for their excessive sugar content, have undergone substantial rebranding in recent years. CNN Business reported last year diet soda was disappearing from shelves. Companies have been rebranding no-calorie soft drinks—removing the term “diet” and replacing it with “zero sugar.”
This shift toward zero-sugar branding is accelerating due to recent FDA initiatives. A July 27, 2022 Forbes report stated changes to FDA label requirements have food and beverage manufacturers searching for new ways to brand their products. FDA updated Nutrition Facts label requirements in 2020, emphasizing calories through larger, bold font and revising serving sizes to more accurately represent the typical amount of product actually consumed. Soda serving sizes, notably, were changed from 8 ounces to 12 ounces, increasing the numbers for calories and sugar on the Nutrition Facts label.
Currently, Keurig Dr Pepper labels all its “diet” beverages “zero sugar” except for Dr Pepper, which currently retains the “diet” descriptor. Soft drink labeling has trended this direction for several years. PepsiCo rebranded Pepsi Max as “Pepsi Zero Sugar” in 2016 and, increasingly, continues to invest in zero-sugar offerings. When customers purchase full-sugar products, they purchase smaller sizes than before, according to PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta. Zero-sugar beverage sales are growing three times as fast as full sugar sodas, Laguarta said, reflecting the larger trend of consumers seeking out products with reduced sugar.
According to a transcription of Coca-Cola's second quarter 2022 conference call, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar continues to grow across all territories and markets. The company recently rolled out a new product in this zero-sugar line: a limited-edition collaboration with electronic musician and producer Marshmello that combines Coca-Cola with strawberry and watermelon flavors.
Musical collaborations like these have become a feature of Coca-Cola's recent promotional efforts, and zero-sugar offerings are at the center of these promotions. An exclusive event in Dublin this June celebrated the launch of a new global music platform, Coke Studio. The evening included musical performances and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar-inspired cocktails. From grocery store shelves to red carpet events, Coca-Cola continues to emphasize its zero-sugar offerings.
Although the overall market for “diet” and “zero sugar” branded beverages is still smaller than regular soda, these zero-sugar offerings are experiencing faster growth than their full-sugar counterparts. “Diet” alternatives are up 19.5% since 2018, compared to 8.4% for regular soda, CNN reported.
The media giant also credited the younger generations for some of the market shake up, noting, “The word ‘diet’ has fallen out of fashion–especially for Millennials and Gen Z-ers.” Greg Lyons, PepsiCo Beverages North America chief marketing officer (CMO), concurred with this assessment. “Younger people just don't like the word ‘diet,’” he asserted. “No Gen Z wants to be on a diet these days.”