Coca-Cola: Our Consumers are not yet Ready for Sugar-Free. Too much sugar is sorry for people, we know that by now. Also Coca-Cola, a company that deserves money with sugar products, therefore tries to reduce it.
Only we are not ready for that according to the company itself.
When a consumer makes a choice, he will often opt for the well-known, sugar-containing product, says Coca-Cola. An excellent example of this is the Sprite brand in the Netherlands.
Last year, the sugary variant of Sprite was removed from the shelves. Sprite Zero has now replaced the ‘normal’ Sprite.
The Netherlands thus became the first country in the world where the sugar-based Sprite was removed from the sale.
“There were two options,” says Bruno van Gompel, who is responsible for the introduction of new products in Western Europe.
“Or we reduce the amount of sugar a bit, or we bring back the amount and put next to the normal Sprite, a Sprite Zero.”
But the Sprite Zero is not right. “The reality is that consumers will always go for the well-known product if you give them a choice”, says Van Gompel.
“We then designed a product (Sprite Zero, red.) That looks very similar to the original.” This version of Sprite has afterwards appeared in Dutch stores.
In addition to the custom of picking the favourite product, according to Coca-Cola, the consumer often chooses the sweetest product when the choice is made.
Van Gompel mentions an example of a product in the United Kingdom where they produce several variants: two products with 4 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres,
and one product with 2 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres. The last product sells a lot less well than the products with more sugar.
“We try to trade products with lower sugar content, but our consumers are not ready for it yet”, Van Gompel continues. “It’s an evolution, and if you move too fast, you will not sell it either.”
The Coca-Cola Company not only has to deal with the changing demand from consumers but governments also increasingly engage in the sugar debate.
The United Kingdom intervened earlier this year. By adding a tax on sugar-rich products, the government wants to combat obesity.
The sugar tax makes a distinction between soft drinks with 5 to 8 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres and soft drinks that contain more sugar.
As a result, the accurate price of soft drinks from the first group increased by almost 20 percent and that of bottles from the second group by about 25 percent.
Soft drinks with less than 5 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres are exempt, just like fruit drinks with no added sugar.
Tim Brett, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company in Western Europe, does not agree with the sugar tax.
“The tax is punitive, it is a very high tax, and we do not think this is the best option to control consumer behaviour,” he says.
“The tax leads to all kinds of inconsistencies: you pay tax when you drink Coca-Cola, but you do not pay tax when you eat chocolate.” Van Gompel agrees. “It is not a sugar tax, but it is a soft drink tax.”
Soft drinks market
Brett is definite about the development of the company. “Fifteen years ago, people assumed the sale of our carbonated soft drinks to fall back,
and we would only get our profits from other drinks,” Brett says. “However, that is not what happened.”
The carbonated soft drinks are still growing according to Brett. The CEO refers to the thousands of products that his company produces together with the bottler.
The group owns 500 brands with more than 3,900 products.
“If consumers are worried about the amount of sugar in a product, we will create a new product, so innovation is how we stay at the top.”