Anti-sugar lobby FIZZ has congratulated Coca-Cola on offering another sugar-free variety, a move it says is a step in the right direction.
Coca-Cola announced today that it had developing a Coke No Sugar recipe which it claims tastes almost identical to Coke classic. It says that its consumer testers could not tell the difference.
FIZZ - a group of doctors and health experts aiming to make New Zealand free of sugar-sweetened drinks by 2025 - applauded the move.
"We're swimming in sugar and sugary drinks are the biggest contributor to that," said FIZZ founder Gerhard Sundborn, an epidemiologist from the University of Auckland. "
"If you were to have a full sugar Coke in the first place and you move to diet Coke or Coke Zero or this new alternative, you're wiping out all the sugar, which could be up to 16 teaspoons in a 600ml bottle."
There remained concerns about such drinks - particularly with dentists - around their acidic content, which breaks down the enamel of teeth, and the caffeine they contained. However, sugar was certainly the worst offender.
"Another concern is that you're still maintaining a pallete for sweetness," Sundborn said.
"But I congratulate Coke and I think... providing more sugar-free options is definitely a step in the right direction,"
He hoped other soft-drink companies would follow suit, particularly given increasing public awareness of the harms of sugar.
"I think you'll see industry more and more moving towards products like this."
Nonetheless, it was always best to drink water or milk rather than a fizzy drink, Sundborn said.
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.
"We're launching the biggest product since Coca-Cola itself," she 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.
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.
"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."
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, and the other Coke products.