Coke brings Coca-Cola Life to the UK

Coca-Cola Great Britain has announced the launch of the first new Coke variant in the region for eight years – Coca-Cola Life – a lower calorie product it says marks a continuation of its efforts to help consumers live more balanced lifestyles.

Coca Cola Life Great Britain
Coke announces it will launch Coca-Cola Life in Great Britain in September.

Coca-Cola Life has a third fewer calories and sugar than Coca-Cola and is sweetened using a blend of sugar and naturally sourced sweetener stevia. A 330ml can of Coca-Cola original contains 139 calories, compared with Life’s 89 calories.

Life carries green branding and will be supported with a digital, outdoor and print marketing campaign when it launches in Great Britain in September. It will be available in similar bottle sizes and carry a price comparable to other products in the Coke portfolio.

Coca-Cola Great Britain says the launch of Life forms part of its commitment to use innovation to provide consumers with more reduced, low and no calorie options as it looks to encourage people to live more healthy and active lifestyles.

James Quincey, Coca-Cola Europe president, says: “[Coca-Cola Life] complements our existing brands and is well positioned to meet changing lifestyle trends, providing people with a great tasting, lower calorie cola sweetened from natural sources.

“With Coca-Cola Life we have innovated to provide consumers with a new option with fewer calories.”

The company recently announced a £20m commitment to get 1 million people in Great Britain more active by 2020. Coca-Cola was also an early signatory to the Government’s Responsibility Deal in 2012 and since then has committed to reducing the average calories per litre in its sparkling drinks by 5 per cent, a commitment that saw it reformulate Sprite and launching smaller bottle sizes across its portfolio.

More than 40 per cent of the cola sold by Coke in the UK is no-calorie, accounting for its Diet Coke and Coke Zero range.

Value sales of carbonate drinks in the UK rose 2.5 per cent year on year to £8.9m in 2013, according to Zenith International’s and the British Soft Drinks Association’s annual report. Low calorie variants’ share of the carbonates market remained stable at 39 per cent.

Coca-Cola Life’s detractors

However, Shore Capital soft drinks analyst Phil Caroll believes positioning Coca-Cola Life in the middle ground between Coca-Cola original and its Diet and Zero products will see it operate in “no man’s land”.

He adds: “I think it will be looked at with interest but I don’t think it will be a core proposition for consumers. Coke Zero already satisfies that requirement of a healthier option without the taste of Diet.

“It’s also interesting that Coke is using stevia – [for which] a consumer education exercise needs to be undertaken [by the food and drink industry] – in a core brand extension. I think that’s quite dangerous as it could dilute the core proposition.”

The public health lobby are also likely to take issue with the launch of Coca-Cola Life. Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, says there is “little to applaud” in the announcement.

He adds: “Fundamentally, this is about a company launching a sugary product to encourage more people to consume a substance that contributes to a range of dietary and health-related problems.

“Coca-Cola appears to be using the cover of the Government’s discredited Responsibility Deal to seek acclaim for bringing out a product that still contains over 4 teaspoons of sugar per 330ml can, which equates to one-quarter of a child’s daily recommended maximum intake of sugar.

The brand was first piloted in Argentina and Chile in November 2013. In February this year Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent told the Consumer and Analyst Group of New York soft drinks conference the brand had “shown great promise in recruiting new and lapsed consumers into the sparkling category, as well as generating profitable incremental volume for our system”.