Coca-Cola must long for the heady days of the mid to late 20th century, when fat - not sugar - was public enemy number one.

Amid continually-plummeting sales, the once all-powerful soft drink company has today released the fourth sugar-free or low sugar version of its staple beverage Coca Cola - heavy with promise that after five long years of testing they've finally nailed the elusive taste of the original.

READ MORE:Coca-Cola fizzing over sugar-free future

The new Coke No Sugar joins the 1982-developed Diet Coke, 2006's Coke Zero and this year's rebranded Coke with Stevia, on the increasingly crowded sugar-free cola shelves. But to make room for Coke No Sugar, Coca-Cola will dump its popular Coke Zero product.


Initially, both Coke No Sugar and Coke Zero will be available on shelves but the plan is to eventually phase out the older product.

But unlike its predecessors, the company promises that this time Coke No Sugar tastes just like Coke should, a heavily sugar-laden version based on a 130-year-old recipe.

The hugely popular taste has, thus far, never been able to be replicated without the generous helping of the sweet, white, calorie-dense stuff.

Until now, apparently. Cue public relations guff.

"We think it's the closest we have ever come to the classic taste of Coca-Cola," Roberto Mercadé, the President of Coca-Cola in Australia, said pre-launch.

"We wanted the experience of drinking Coca-Cola No Sugar to be as close as possible to 'The Real Thing'," he said in reference to the successful 1970s advertising slogan invented when it was at war with Pepsi.

"That's no small task when you consider the original has been cherished by consumers for more than a century."

Kiwis and Australians will be among the first in the world to sample the new beverage, and consequently among the first to determine whether the new product lives up to the "classic taste" hype.


The only other country to have tried it en masse so far has been Mexico, a country whose residents are the largest consumers of Coca-Cola in the world.

The drink remains popular in the developing world, but the sugar-free juggernaut in the west has made a huge dent in sales of the original beverage worldwide.

Global sales have been on a downward trajectory for more than a decade.

With 10 teaspoons of sugar in one 375ml can of original Coca-Cola, amid an escalating obesity crisis in the developed world, most health professionals recommend it not be consumed at all, even in moderation.

It's not just Coke but all sugary soft drinks that are off limits.

Sales have been falling across the board, though there are also theories that energy drinks, sales of which have correspondingly increased, have nabbed some of the soft drink market's share.

Diet soft drink sales have also fallen among the health conscious and the market has, often unsuccessfully, tried to plug that gap with more "natural" alternatives.

The original sugar free Coca-Cola product, Diet Coke, took a hit in sales in the early years of the last decade amid concerns its artificial sweetener, aspartame, was linked to brain cancer.

We wanted the experience of drinking Coca-Cola No Sugar to be as close as possible to 'The Real Thing'.

Hundreds of studies, many funded by soft drink companies, have dispelled the cancer claims and declared the sweetener safe. Coca-Cola went on to use it in the development of Coke Zero, released in 2006.

Aspartame is also the sweetener used in the new Coke No Sugar.

"The sweeteners are completely safe, and are among the most researched in the world, with scientific studies consistently confirming their safety," a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said.

Coke Zero was an instant success in 2006, with many consumers agreeing with the company's claims it was far closer to the original than Diet Coke.

Though still, it was generally conceded, not quite there.

Both diet products suffered a further blow with the rise of "clean eating" and the paleo lifestyle this decade, which encourages its many followers to avoid all chemically developed and processed foods.

Chief among the foods to avoid was artificial sweetener, which gave rise to the use of stevia, a natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant.

Coca-Cola responded to the market shift in 2015, with the launch of Coke Life, a half stevia, half cane sugar sweetened product that proved an almost unmitigated disaster.

It has, however, persevered with it, rebranding the product earlier this year as Coke with Stevia. contributing economist Jason Murphy described Coke Life as, "like the spork (part spoon, part fork) ... one of those great inventions nobody really wanted."

The company, he said, is quite simply not the golden child it once was.

So, the global soft drink conglomerate has invested heavily in Coke No Sugar, in a bid to turn its flagging fortunes around, or, at least halt falling sales.

It has invested five years of research, recipe tweaking and flavour trials into its new product and will give away two million free samples, in a bid to lure new customers.

"We want Coca-Cola No Sugar to be within an arm's reach of wherever you are, whenever you desire."

If he sounds a little desperate, it's perhaps for good reason.

In February, it was revealed that the Atlanta-based company's profits had fallen 55 per cent globally at the end of last year.

While Coca-Cola still earned $550 million in the 2016 December quarter, in the corresponding 2015 time frame, it earned $1.24 billion.

In response to the worldwide downturn in sales, the company has been restructuring and offloading assets.

The success of its new product appears vital to the company's fortunes going forward.
"People are looking for a better balance in their diet and lifestyle, which is why we are changing the way we do things here at Coca-Cola," Mercade said.

Coke No Sugar will be available in retail outlets across Australia from next Thursday, June 16.