PepsiCo’s sugar-free cola drinks have suffered a downturn in sales in the take-home market since the launch of Coca-Cola’s rival offering, Coke Zero, according to industry data exclusively revealed to Marketing Week.
Volume sales of Pepsi Max and Diet Pepsi dropped to 129 million litres in the seven months since the June 2006 UK launch of Coca-Cola’s sugar-free drink, a fall from 138 million litres over the same period the year before. The AC Nielsen data also reveals PepsiCo’s total cola sales fell to 201 million litres from 212 million litres over the period.
Dubbed ‘bloke coke’, due to its male-oriented target market, Coke Zero’s launch was backed by a £10m campaign.
Sales of Coca-Cola’s portfolio of sugar-free drinks have subsequently jumped from 279 million to 300 million litres, with Coke Zero selling 40 million litres in its first seven months on the market.
Experts have questioned whether Coke Zero can maintain this growth. Katy Child, senior analyst at Mintel, says Coke Zero’s performance can be partly attributed to consumers experimenting with a new product: "More than any other product, Coke Zero will impact on Pepsi Max. The summer will prove a key test."
But Britvic, which markets and distributes Pepsi drinks in the UK, says its sugar-free colas have been performing well.
A spokesperson for Britvic says: "Both Pepsi Max and Diet Pepsi have increased value share of the UK market since Coke Zero’s launch."