Coca-Cola has launched another sugar-free variety and will encourage consumers to choose the product over traditional Coke amid mounting pressure from health professionals.
Sandhya Pillay, country manager of Coca-Cola Oceania said the launch of the new product was a result of changing consumer tastes and preferences, and a way for the company to remain relevant.
The company has spent five years developing the new Coke No Sugar recipe which it claims tastes almost identical to Coke classic. It says that its consumer testers could not tell the difference. Pillay said the launch was a huge change for the company.
"We're launching the biggest product since Coca-Cola itself," Pillay said.
"We've been focusing on choice for so long, particularly in New Zealand, and over the past few years we've transcended that to shaping choice - so providing smaller packs, reducing the amount of sugar," she said.
"Coca-Cola no sugar is now us, actively encouraging no sugar. So this is us, this is Coca-Cola, actively saying here is a no sugar drink, it tastes pretty much the same, it's your choice."
The company has faced increasing pressure from health experts calling for a ban on sugar-sweetened drinks linked to obesity, type-2 diabetes, addiction and tooth decay.
Pillay represented Coca-Cola at a conference in October last year organised by FIZZ - a group of doctors and health experts aiming to make New Zealand free of sugar-sweetened drinks by 2025.
The group of doctors, dentists and specialists that belong to Fizz said the evidence linking sugary drinks to poor health, rotten teeth, gout, cardiovascular disease and premature death was so strong it could not be ignored.
At the time Pillay said the best approach to help reduce obesity was to give people choice and information, rather than product bans, increased taxes on families and individuals or through more regulation.
Pillay argued obesity could not be blamed on sugary-drinks alone and that focusing on just one food or drink was not a solution.
The latest move by the company to encourage consumers to choose Coke No Sugar, is a step change away from its historic view that it was entirely up to the consumer to choose what they ate and drank.
Pillay said the company was committed to offering more sugar-free options, with low or no sugar products now making up around a third of the companies sales, with this number increasing 12 per cent in the last 12 months.
"This is us actively encouraging consumers to go no sugar," Pillay said.
"To say it's a big step change for the company is an understatement. We believe this is what's going to keep us relevant for another 131 years."
Coca-Cola has previously brought out several low and no-sugar products including Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Coca-Cola Life.
Pillay said the company would continue to sell these products alongside Coke No Sugar.
New Zealand is one of the first countries globally to get the Coke No Sugar product which will be stocked alongside all Coke classic cans and bottles.
"This is about our business making the leap from simply offering people more choice to actively encouraging people to drink a 'no sugar' option," Pillay said.
"People are looking for a better balance in their diet and lifestyle."