Lucozade says the Zero launch was driven by the nation’s changing health agenda, as more than half of the soft drinks market (57%) is now low calorie or calorie-free. The new drink will be available in orange and pink lemonade flavours from May.

It is also investing in a £5m marketing campaign, which includes digital, OOH, experiential and PR, to drive awareness and encourage people to try the new range. In addition to the consumer media campaign, there will be retail support including point of sale material and stand-out display units.

Charlotte Flook, Lucozade Energy’s senior brand manager, told Marketing Week that the company has been looking at low-calorie options “for a long time”. It launched ‘Lucozade Lite’ last year, which has 50 calories per 500ml bottle instead of the usual 140 calories. It has also made a company pledge to reduce its products’ calorie content by 20% come 2025.

“It’s about tapping into changing consumer needs. We know we need to offer choice to consumers, by offering the right product at the right time. Lucozade Zero should open up the brand to people who might not have considered us before,” she said.

Reacting to the sugar tax

Last month, the government announced a sugar tax that would impact the soft drinks industry when introduced in 2018. Flook said the move is “disappointing” for the brand, as the soft drinks industry has been “the only sector” to reduce calories across it products.

READ MORE: Coca-Cola and Britvic hit back at sugar tax for ‘singling out soft drinks’

She explained: “As an industry we have steadily reduced the calories for the last number of years, and we are the only sector to continue to reduce calories. We are disappointed with the soft drinks tax, as we believe [obesity] is a highly complex situation that a soft drinks tax wont affect.”

Lucozade is not the only brand that is trying to adapt to increased scrutiny on sugar. Scottish soft drinks owner AG Barr said earlier this week it would adapt its recipe for Irn-Bru and speed up cuts to sugar levels over the next year to ensure it is ready for the introduction of the sugar tax in 2018.

Kawther Hashem, nutritionist and researcher at Action on Sugar, welcomes any moves that “will genuinely reduce sugars and total calories in our diet”, but remains cautious.

She told Marketing Week: “Whilst certain drinks manufacturers claim their products are a good source of energy, this is nonsense. The body generates energy from any food, such as fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta and rice and there is no need whatsoever for added sugars. We would still recommend that people drink water as opposed to low calorie/zero sugar options.”

Battling against slowing growth

According to figures from Mintel, the energy and sports drinks market is struggling. After a period of strong growth between 2010 and 2013, the market slowed in 2014. Volume sales fell by 0.9% in 2015 to 692 million litres, while value experienced modest growth of 1.1% to £1.5bn.

Mintel predicts the market will see volume growth between 2015 and 2020 of 4%, with the solid performance of energy drinks offsetting the decline predicted in sports drinks.

Lucozade currently holds 62% of the market by value with the next largest brand, Powerade, accounting for 9%. After experiencing an uplift in sales in the year to June 2014, volume sales of Lucozade Sport fell in the year to June 2015 by a fifth.

Suntory was not the only company to experience a decline in sales, as Coca-Cola’s Powerade brand has suffered from falling sales year on year since 2012/13 and the year to June 2015 was no exception, with volumes dropping 33%.

It also faces competition from a new breed of energy drinks focused on more natural ingredients. Former Red Bull marketer Huib van Bockel launched his own energy drink Tenzing last year, which is made with half the sugar of his previous employer’s product.